Anatomy of an Aeroplan award

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I’ve really come to love Aeroplan more and more this year. Obviously it was a big tool on my path to victory in the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge, but I also find it just a lot of fun to daydream about great Aeroplan awards thanks to their great partnerships and really cool award chart for those looking to piece together unique itineraries. At the Chicago Seminars recently, one of the questions I got from a number of people was how I went about piecing my award together. Many people wanted to know how difficult it is and how long it took to do. The good news is that it isn’t very difficult at all thanks to Aeroplan’s pretty good search tool, but it does take some time. Still, if you enjoy puzzles and puzzle games, piecing together a great Aeroplan award can be a lot of fun. In this post, I imagine myself wanting to take a trip next year during the summer school break (August 2023) with my family of 4 and I show you how I’d go about searching and putting together an epic trip.

The United search results I found give me hope for really cool routings — and for finding domestic award tickets.

An example award search for summer 2023

AirCanada.com’s search tool is robust and I believe it includes all of their partner flights. You can only search one date at a time (you can’t even click around on the 7-day calendar shown at the top of results), but as long as you have the box checked to use Aeroplan points it returns award flight results promptly.

For the purposes of this post, I wanted to examine what it would be like if I were looking to book a trip for my family of four during August 2023. I intentionally chose a time of year when many kids would be off of school because peak summer dates can be hard in terms of availability, so it would give me a chance to demonstrate how I’d go about searching. Parts of the story may be tough to wrap your mind around on the first read, but hopefully this gives some food for thought in terms of how to plot out your own award searches.

First steps

My first step in thinking about these types of awards is doing a simple search or two based on the award I really want to book while paying close attention to what else comes up in the results.

For instance, let’s say that I wanted to fly to Rome next summer. I’ve never looked for data on this, but my impression is that there are more flights to Europe from New York than any other US city (somebody please feel free to fact check me on that!) — and I’m based in New York State — so I always start with searching from New York City. Unfortunately, Newark was recently taken out of the “NYC” airport code, so that sometimes means needing to search both “EWR” and “JFK” for international routes out of New York.

I began with August 3, 2023 and searched for awards from New York (JFK) to Rome (FCO). Important note: Despite the fact that I need 4 total seats for my family, I always start by searching for only one passenger. I’ll explain why in a minute. Take a look at the results:

As you can see, there are itineraries available entirely in business class on Brussels Airlines and Egyptair. The Air Serbia result at the top says “mixed cabin” in red. Air Canada codes mixed-cabin results by color: red means that less than 50% is in business class and black means more than 50% is in business class. Since there are only two segments and mixed cabin is in red, I immediately know that it’s only the Belgrade to Rome segment that is in business class, so I ignore that result.

I was happy to see availability on both Brussels and Egyptair, but unfortunately there was only one seat on the Brussels itineraries and only 2 seats on the Egyptair itineraries. However, the “1 seat left” or “2 seats left” designation applies to the entire itinerary. It is possible that one segment has more seats available — the search tool is only displaying how many seats are available on the entire itinerary. In other words, maybe one leg has 4 seats available and the other leg has only 2 seats available — in that case, I would expect the tool to show only 2 available seats for the overall itinerary.

For instance, while there are only 2 seats left from New York to Cairo to Rome, it is possible that there are more seats on either New York to Cairo or on Cairo to Rome, but there are 2 seats left on that combination of flights. So when I see a result like that, my next step is to try searching from New York to Cairo to see how many seats are available on the long-haul flight. Sure enough, there are five seats available in business class on the long-haul flight.

This flight departs New York on August 3, 2023 and arrives in Cairo on August 4, 2023 at 9:45am and has 5 seats available in business class.

That’s more than enough space for my family of 4 to fly across the Atlantic in business class. This is why I only search for one passenger to start — had I searched from New York to Rome for four passengers, I wouldn’t have seen any seats available on Egpytair since there weren’t four seats available on the connecting flight from Cairo to Rome.

By contrast, the Brussels flight only had one seat from New York to Brussels. That won’t work.

So let’s imagine for a moment that I was happy enough to fly Egyptair (which would be true on their 787; in reality I’d be more hesitant about this 777 route, but let’s ignore that and just play along with the notion that I was happy with the Egyptair flight). Since that is an overnight flight departing on August 3rd, it arrives at 9:45am local time on August 4th. A connection time of up to 24 hours is allowed on international award tickets without counting as a stopover, so that means that I could continue on from Cairo on any flight up until 9:45am on August 5th.

Note the difference between a stopover and a layover. A stopover is when you stop in a connecting city for 24 hours or more. A layover is a connection of fewer than 24 hours. Air Canada allows one stopover on a one-way award for an additional 5,000 miles. You are allowed a total of up to 6 segments on a one-way award and layovers between segments can be up to 24 hours.

Expanding the net to flights within 24 hours

Continuing with this idea that I’d like to get to Rome, that means I’d next search business class from Cairo to Rome on August 4th (the day of my arrival). I like to sort the results by departure time since I know I need to look at flights that depart after 9:45am on August 4th or before 9:45am on August 5th.

There were no options with 4 award seats in business class on August 4th. I did find results through Brussels, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain that had two seats available.

As was the case with the Egyptair flight, I wondered whether in those itineraries through Brussels, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain it was the first or second leg (or both) that were limiting the search results to two seats. I thought that perhaps I could find a connecting flight from Cairo to one of those cities and then find a separate flight to Rome. Unfortunately, when I searched from Cairo to Brussels and Cairo to Abu Dhabi and Cairo to Bahrain individually, all of the nonstops had only 2 seats available.

When I searched from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, I did find several connecting itineraries that had 4 seats in business class, but only two seats on the nonstop options.

All of those itineraries above include a leg on Egyptair to Saudi Arabia and then continue on Gulf Air through Bahrain. Unfortunately, you might notice that I forgot to sort the results above by departure time — all of them depart Cairo before I’d be there on August 4th. I did find one option leaving Cairo at 2:45pm and connecting at a different city in Saudi Arabia, but at the end of the day let’s say that I wasn’t interested in the above travel gymnastics since I ultimately want to end up in Rome, not Abu Dhabi.

Remember that I would have up to 24 hours from my time of scheduled arrival on August 4th to depart Cairo without paying for a stopover — so I next searched on August 5th from Cairo to Rome and sorted by departure time to look at the flights departing before I hit the 24hr mark at 9:45am. Here were the options:

As you can see, only the last itinerary on the list above had 4 seats. It leaves at 9:40am on August 5th — just in time for me to stay under 24 hours (I’d be in Cairo for 23 hours and 55 minutes, plenty of time to do some sightseeing). However, unfortunately, it’s mixed-cabin. The good news: it is in black, so more than 50% is available in business class. The bad news is that the flights from Cairo to Istanbul and Istanbul to Rome are nearly equidistant — so just over 50% would be in business class. As it turns out, the flight from Istanbul to Rome would be in business class. That sounded good since Greg reported Turkish’s intra-European business class to be really good. However, I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of flying from Egypt to Istanbul in economy class (since you need to pay the award price of the highest cabin on your itinerary, I’d be paying for business class even if one or more segments are in economy class).

Scrolling back to the top of the list, I see that the first itinerary from Cairo to Istanbul to Athens to Rome only has 1 seat left in business class — but, once again, I don’t know which leg(s) might be the limiting factor. So I tried searching Cairo to Istanbul on August 5th.

This flight would leave Cairo at 2:45am on August 5th — less than 24 hours after my arrival on August 4 at 9:45am, but plenty of time for a full day of sightseeing.

Three seats! So close! If I only needed 3 seats, that might have been perfect(ish). I’d arrive in Cairo at 9:45am on August 4th, have plenty of time to go see the pyramids (or whatever) and come back to the airport around midnight for my 2:45am departure to Istanbul. Then, I could spend all day in Istanbul and fly to Rome on Saturday night, August 5th — nonstop or via Vienna.

There was availability to continue in business class from Istanbul to Rome — if only that 2:45am departure in the example above this one had 4 seats to get us to Istanbul!

But that flight from Cairo to Istanbul only had 3 seats and I need 4 seats. I should note that there were itineraries with 4 seats in business class that connected in Kuwait City or a couple of cities in Saudi Arabia — but that was more out of the way than I wanted to be for this example.

Remember that I would arrive in Cairo at 9:45am on August 4th. I therefore decided to back up and see if I could fly from Cairo to Istanbul on August 4th (maybe I could find onward connections to Rome still). Unfortunately, the nonstop on Turkish Airlines on the evening of August 4th also only had 3 seats.

This would leave on the evening of August 4th at 8:40pm — giving me almost 12 hours in Cairo.

Again, that’s not enough seats. But once again, I found a number of connecting options with 2 seats — so once again I had more searches to do. For instance, there was this itinerary from Cairo to Budapest to Istanbul with 2 seats.

That interested me less for the prospect of flying from Cairo to Budapest to Istanbul and more because Budapest might be a fun destination for a night on the way to Rome. Unfortunately, there were only 2 seats on the nonstop from Cairo to Budapest on Egyptair. However, there were 4 seats on Turkish connecting in Istanbul!

Departing Cairo on August 4th at 8:40pm.

Those with an astute eye might recognize the departure time there — that 20:40 departure from Cairo on August 4th is the same flight shown a moment ago. Nonstop from Cairo to Istanbul it only has 3 seats in business class — but continue on to Budapest and suddenly there is space for my family of four!

If you actually wanted to book that flight, I think you would have to be specific (and insistent) with the Air Canada phone rep as to how they search it. If they search just Cairo to Istanbul (going segment-by-segment), they are only going to see 3 seats on the Cairo-to-Istanbul leg. If they search Cairo to Budapest, they should see the four seats. I’m making that educated guess based on similar experiences I had where Turkish showed availability on the flights to Istanbul only when combined with a flight out of Istanbul (and based on the way my phone conversations went on two separate occasions — each time, I was told there was no space from Cairo to Istanbul only to continue insisting that they search Cairo to [insert destination] and find the option on Turkish).

While that itinerary would leave enough time to see the pyramids in Cairo and provide a 12 hour layover in Istanbul, the layover is from midnight until 12pm. Factoring in time from the airport to the city and back to the airport, that’s not actually very appealing since you’d barely have enough time for a rushed breakfast in Istanbul.

However, in searching Cairo to Budapest I did stumble on some other options like this itinerary through Istanbul and Vienna, where I suddenly found 4 seats on the 2:45am flight from Cairo to Istanbul (on August 5th) provided I continue on to Vienna and Budapest.

Notice yet again that there are suddenly 4 seats available in business class on a connecting itinerary where one leg (Cairo to Istanbul at 2:45am on August 5th) only had 3 seats available when examined alone. I also found four seats from Cairo to Istanbul to Athens starting on the same 2:45am flight.

Backing up and retooling plans

At this point, I had to back up and look at the big picture again. I wasn’t thrilled with any of the options above. I decided to reverse-engineer. I thought that I wanted to end up in Rome and there weren’t seats on the nonstop on Egyptair from Cairo to Rome, so I’d need to connect somewhere between Cairo and Rome. Rather than waste more time doing scattershot searches, I wanted to figure out which Air Canada partners fly to Rome because then I could search from Cairo to the hubs of those partners and potentially build in a stopover.

I went to FlightConnections.com and searched from Rome for Star Alliance routes. Note that searching by alliance requires a paid subscription, but the paid subscription for this excellent tool is only $36 per year and it is well worth it. The free version allows you to search one airline at a time, which can also be useful, but for my purposes here it would have been tedious. Note that by filtering to Star Alliance airlines, I would miss some Air Canada partners that fly to Rome like Air Dolomiti and Air Serbia, but this would give me a good starting point of cities I could sandwich between Cairo and Rome.

I learned about a couple of routes from that map. I previously had no idea that Ethiopian has 5th freedom routes on some days of the week from Marseille, France and from Milan to Rome.  I couldn’t find any availability on those flights, but it was interesting nonetheless.

I decided to next search from Cairo to Brussels thinking that I could ultimately end in Brussels and take a cheap Ryanair flight to Rome if that’s what it took to get there. I searched from Cairo to Brussels on August 4th to see whether there was a shot at getting that far in business class. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough seats on a nonstop, however, I found that there were four seats on the Egyptair flight from Cairo to Paris and then onward to Brussels.

This itinerary from Cairo to Paris to Brussels takes off at 9:40am on August 4th.

Paris in the summertime sounds nice! In fact, maybe it sounds even nicer than Rome! Who needs Rome if I can get to the city of love and a cheaper Disneyland all in one shot?

I recently wrote a post explaining how I am very destination-open when booking trips. I’ll often go where availability takes me — and in this case, while I started with Rome in mind, I wouldn’t be disappointed with Paris instead. If you want to find seats for a family during peak school break dates, you often need to have that kind of flexibility (see Business class for 4 or more: finding multiple seats for family award travel for more about that).

Unfortunately, that flight from Cairo to Paris takes off 5 minutes before my flight from New York would arrive. Doh! That wouldn’t work.

But man, I’d really like to get to Paris. Unfortunately, the 9:40am flight on August 5th (23 hours and 55 minutes after my planned arrival on August 4th) only had one seat, so that wouldn’t work either. Back to the drawing board….

What if I could get to Cairo in time to catch the flight to Paris? In order to do that, I would need to land in Cairo really early in the morning on the 4th or the day before.

As it turns out, I could start my trip one day earlier and fly from New York to Cairo departing on August 2nd and arriving on August 3rd as there were 5 seats in business class on that date.

Again, that flight arrives at 9:45am on August 3rd. I could then spend 23 hours and 55 minutes in Cairo and continue on from Cairo to Paris on August 4th

Boom! That’s New York to Paris with a 23 hour and 55 minute stop in Egypt for four people on peak summer dates — and I haven’t even used a stopover yet.

But perhaps I can’t leave on August 2nd. Maybe I really need to leave on August 3rd but I’d like to arrive in time for the flight to Paris at 9:40am on August 4th. I’d go back to Flight Connections and figure out what other airports Egyptair serves from Cairo — maybe I could find availability on something with a better schedule.

In this search, I filtered to just Egyptair at the top — which you can do with the free version of the site, no subscription or account required — to find other routes between the US and Cairo.

I immediately noticed that they also fly to Cairo from Washington (IAD). I searched that flight on August 3rd — and sure enough, they have a flight from Washington that arrives at 4:30am on August 4th — plenty of time to catch the connection to Paris at 9:40am.

Unfortunately, all of that work done to find business class for a family to Paris and I wouldn’t be paying a great price for it. That’s because whether you start in New York or Washington DC, your total travel distance from New York to Cairo to Paris will be about 7,600 or 7,800 miles. That means you would pay 90,000 miles one way for New York or DC to Cairo and on to Paris. That’s not at all a good price for business class to Europe. 

But the beauty of Aeroplan’s award chart isn’t for simple trips to Europe — the beauty of the award chart is being able to piece together awards on different partners that stretch to the ends of the chart. For instance, flying anything more than a couple hundred miles from Paris will put you into the top end of the distance band for the Atlantic zone, so why not stopover in Paris for a few days and then continue on to Mauritius on August 7th, when there is space for 5 in business class on the 12hr flight to Mauritius.

Since the total distance flown would be much greater than 8,000 miles, and Mauritius is within the Atlantic zone, you’d pay 110K miles + 5K miles for the stop in Paris.

I know that we have to get back home and I don’t usually worry about booking my return flight through the same airline program, but I know many people would like to see that a return is possible. For the return journey, it would be possible to fly a family of four in business class to Johannesburg after a couple of days in Mauritius.

And then after nearly 24 hours in Johannesburg, you could continue on to Abu Dhabi and back to New York — yes, this is space for 4 passengers (both legs are operated by 787s).

That “return” itinerary from Mauritius to Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi to New York has no stopover, so it would cost 110K miles — or stop in one of those locations on the way back for a total of 115K miles one way.

In total, a trip like that would cost 225K-230K miles per passenger with nearly 24 hours in Egypt if you want plus a stopover in Paris for a few days (or as long as you want up to 45 days on a stopover) before continuing on to your destination of Mauritius for a few days (or as long as you want or as the schedule allows) and then you could try to plan a stopover in either Johannesburg or Abu Dhabi (again, for up to 45 days) on the way back to New York and pay just 230K miles plus taxes, flying entirely in business class with a family of four during (Northern Hemisphere) summer dates. If you took advantage of the current Chase transfer bonus, you would only need to transfer 177K Ultimate Rewards points to book that trip.

Stretching it out for only a few miles more

But maybe you want to stretch things further. After all, while this trip to Mauritius would cost you 110K miles + 5K miles for the stopover in Paris, a trip between North America and the Pacific zone only costs at maximum 115K miles + 5K miles for the stopover in Paris.

In other words, for 5K miles more than it would cost you to get to Cairo, Paris, and Mauritius, you could instead go to Cairo, Paris, and basically anywhere in Asia / Oceania. North America to the Pacific zone with a stopover in the Atlantic zone is a sweet spot in my opinion.

For instance, you have a stopover in Paris and then continue on to Bangkok via Istanbul on August 10th, spending from 1hr to 16hrs in Istanbul (I’d recommend 16!).

But maybe you’re not long for Bangkok and you’d rather continue on to Singapore and Bali. If you took that 16hr layover in Istanbul that lands in Bangkok at 06:15 on August 12th, you could spend the day in Bangkok and then continue on with 4 seats in business class to Singapore and on to Bali.

At that point, you could have flown:

  • JFK to Cairo, 23 hours and 55 minutes in Cairo
  • Cairo to Paris, stop for as long as you like (in this example, six days, but Aeroplan allows a stopover of up to 45 days)
  • Paris to Istanbul, 16hrs in Istanbul
  • Istanbul to Bangkok, 14hrs in Bangkok
  • Bangkok to Singapore (overnight layover in Singapore that you could spend in the lounge or a transit hotel)
  • Singapore to Bali

That’s six segments, all in business class, for 115K miles.

How did I find all of those options with 4 seats in business class during a peak school break period? The same way I found the seats shown at the beginning of this post — trial and error by searching a route with one passenger and examining the results to see what other routes I might want to try.

It helps that I’m fairly familiar with Air Canada’s partner airlines. I tend to search from hub to hub. For instance, I know that Air Canada partners with Star Alliance airlines, so I searched from Cairo to cities that I know are Star Alliance hubs like Istanbul (Turkish), Bangkok (Thai), and Singapore (Singapore). I also searched to cities like Muscat (Oman Air) and Abu Dhabi (Etihad). I search segment-by-segment and always start with one passenger so that I don’t miss connecting itineraries that might have a segment that works for my family.

Bottom line

I know that this post may be tough to follow on first pass, but I hoped that it would lay out the process for piecing together a big Aeroplan award and show that it is certainly possible to do — even with a family and even during a peak travel period. Would my kids really love going to Cairo for 23 hours or Istanbul for 16 hours? Maybe not. I’m not really booking this trip, but rather showing my plan of attack for finding something like it. The AirCanada.com search tool is incredibly powerful and while it is tedious searching one date and city pair at a time, it loads results reasonably fast for each search. More importantly, because of Air Canada’s highly flexible routing rules, you can get very far on a one-way award. Yes, it’ll probably take some trial and error to find the right itinerary — you probably won’t find what you’re looking for on the first search. However, when it comes to award booking, I love the thrill of the hunt. If you enjoy piecing together puzzles, Air Canada offers the opportunity for endless puzzle play.

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Ben

Thanks so much for this, Nick! You inspired me and I just had great success booking an Aeroplan award with a rather counterintuitive but fun routing. I wanted to share the details here in case this is helpful for anyone or to add to future posts: I was able to book a one-way award from the US to Europe on Etihad with a 2-day stopover in Abu Dhabi. The award is in first class to Abu Dhabi then business class to Vienna. The cost was 145,000 Aeroplan miles per ticket, but I took advantage of the 30% Chase transfer bonus, so it came out to only 112,000 UR points per ticket. That’s pretty amazing to get to Europe in September on Etihad first class and business class with a 2-day visit in Abu Dhabi! Etihad does operate a 3-cabin plane with first class to CDG, LHR, and GVA, so theoritically for the same number of miles we could have booked first class all the way and ended up in one of those cities. But despite showing availability on Aeroplan’s website, two Aeroplan agents over the phone weren’t able to get the ticket to book. So we landed on taking business class to Vienna, which isn’t bad at all. Aeroplan has pretty interesting routing rules that allowed us to book this itinerary. They allow any number of stops on a one-way award so long as the total number of miles flown doesn’t exceed 150% of the distance between the origin and final destination. For example, you can’t fly JFK-Abu Dhabi-Frankfurt because that’s more than 150% of the distance from JFK-Frankfurt. However, theoretically you could fly IAD-Abu Dhabi-Frankfurt because that’s 148% of the distance from IAD-Frankfurt. So for anyone looking to get to Europe in style, this is a pretty fun routing, and with the Chase transfer bonus it’s even sweeter! Here’s a good resource from Prince of Travel on Aeroplan’s award routing rules: https://princeoftravel.com/blog/new-aeroplan-flight-rewards/#routing

Bill B

Nick, I’ve been a frequent FM reader/podcast listener since 2015, and this is easily a top 10 post … really appreciate the inspiration. I’ve got a rising high school senior next year… and was talking with her (and the rest of the family) about your post and we’ve decided that a summer 2024 trip like this is going to be her senior present/trip (with all of us too :)). Here’s my question … I’ll likely look to make this booking as soon as the award calendar opens up. Considering the high-likelihood of schedule changes between booking and taking the trip, how would AC handle a situation where we had a 23 hour layover that turned into something much smaller/less-desirable? Would they allow me to break the “24 hour rule” and not use a stopover? Just trying to think through the implications of scheduled changes that will mess with the trip after booking.

Ian

Great write-up! Thanks for the tip about searching for only one passenger first. Learn something new every day from FM. 🙂

Last edited 26 days ago by Ian
54austin

Does Aeroplan allow one to easily hold or book (and then augment) a segment to create an itinerary as award seat availability changes? Seems that AC knows that us folks like to tinker and are counting on us wanting to make changes to itineraries.

David

Aeroplan really is amazing for flexible travelers. I think this is something I would love to do with my wife. With my kids I’ll stick to other programs. Aeroplan is definitely made for those who enjoy the game (which I do!)

Dr. McFrugal

Thanks for breaking all of this down, Nick. I’m going to consider Aeroplan for my Summer 2023 family travel plans now. And thanks for highlighting the trick of only searching for one passenger first then seeing which segment is the limiting step. Another great thing about Aeroplan for young families is that they only charge $25 CAD (~$18.26 USD) for a lap infant for all class of services / partners. That’s pretty incredible!

ECR

I havent used FlightConnections.com, but from the screenshot you posted it looks like the same features are available on the map version of Google Flights (free). Am I missing something?

Kirk

This is not calculus 101 or 202 — this is PhD dissertation level work. As others have said, amazing, Nick.

When we were without kids, we did some hectic short stints. Now that our kids are young (6 & 2), this type of planning is strictly no go for me to consider. Even traveling from the west coast to Hawaii has noticeable jetlag and time zone effects on the kids. I simply cannot fathom dealing with multiple stopovers, or even significant different time zone layovers, with the kids. Because of that, when Nick and Greg discussed the best award flight program for business class travel, my vote was squarely with ANA. You can still have layover and open jaw with a roundtrip, and that’s plenty sufficient for family traveling.

usernamechuck

I can see this would be (or could be) an amazing deal in J. Our family usually flies in Y. Curious for your thoughts on whether Aeroplan is as good a deal for economy.

Fwiw, had thought of a similar itinerary – but – monsoon season!

usernamechuck

Thanks, that’s what I thought. But as a thought experiment, are there scenarios where Aeroplan would still make sense in economy? The possibility that occurs to me is flying US-Africa (stopover), then (perhaps via BKK and/or Bali) to New Zealand. It’d be 75K in Y, with only minor fees (compare Virgin). I can’t think of another mileage program that would be less – I guess you could possibly book via AA/UA for 82.5, which isn’t hugely more.

I’m sure you’re right that J is a better deal at 120K, (so much better that it’s hard to think about Y) – but it’s worth asking.

(The problem for us at least is that we’d rather visit New Zealand during their summer – but that’s when the kids are in school…)

aaca

Nick, you are my favorite fmiler but can anybody give me the cliff notes for dummies please?

Sarah H.

I actually am considering a trip with my family of 5 to Europe in summer of 2023, so this is really interesting to me. However, that is a steep amt of points for us when it’s all said and done. We don’t care that much about business class. Is it possible to do the same thing, just in economy class?

DSK

I love these thought experiments and enjoy reading them. Great nuggets of information in here!

I still do think about the practicalities of travel, though. I did one of these five years ago just to prove I could–New York to Copenhagen (3 nights) to Stockholm (4 nights) to Copenhagen (overnight) to Frankfurt (enough time in the lounge to enjoy several German beers on draft) to Bangkok (free 20 minute massage from Thai in the airport) to Bali (5 nights) to Bangkok (another free massage) to Oslo (23 hours 40 minutes–full day of sightseeing) to Brussels to New York–all in business on SAS, Lufthansa, Thai and Brussels–for some ridiculously small number of United miles. Packing was fun since temperatures ranged from 40s in Scandinavia to 90’s in Bali. We had an amazing trip, but afterwards, my wonderful wife told me never to even think about doing that again!

Just getting back to your example, you know, if I really wanted to get a family of four to Paris, I can fly four people on August 8 from Newark to Paris for 30,000 United miles and $5.60 per ticket in just 7 hours and 15 minutes instead of 2-3 days. It’s not J, but how much does that really matter for 7 hours and 15 minutes if my real goal is to enjoy as much time as I can in France? I’m guessing that most people who aren’t fanatical about the hobby (like I am) think about it that way!

Richard

As always I do appreciate Nick’s detailed walk-though with lots of valuable info. And it’s nice to have business+ class and multiple city/stopovers if time and energy allow. But yeah I could imagine there could be a debate if a non-stop flight took less than 10 hours in economy whereas 20 hours or more in upper class. At the end it really depends on your (family’s) needs and comfortability level, as well weigh in mile/point difference. I presented business+ itinerary with more time and hours to my family, but most of time they pushed it back, chose nonstop to spend less time on flying but more on touring. However if it’s similar travel time or just a few hours more it’s great to travel in business+.

Richard

Totally agree. Myself actually would like to travel to my destinations. Thank you very much again Nick! It’s always so fun to read your in-depth analysis and exchange with readers.

LarryInNYC

For me, flying business East Coast to Europe is as good as adding an extra day to the trip — if I can sleep, or even just doze — for four or five hours on “European time” then I’m actually able to make something of the day of arrival.

CMX

This would be fun for one person (or a couple), prob not so much for a family with a kid. If you are looking for only 1-2 seats, would that have opened up even more fun opportunities? I’ve done some stopover search on Aeroplan but it doesn’t seem to always work for me (it’s priced separately instead of adding 5k for some reason)

Cmx

I see. So calling is the trick. Thanks so much Nick.

Dan Miller

Awesome post (as usual) Nick. Gives me more ideas to try as I’m trying to book a trip centered on Tokyo for spring.

I’ve found TATL availability to be pretty good but TPAC has been a struggle

Chris Payne

Wow, this is insane. Takes my trip planning process and throws Hulk gamma radiation on it. I don’t know how you have the patience for all that!

But with all that hopping around, I wonder: how is the travel experience? You have to run around quickly from/to airports, carry luggage around with you everywhere, plus tote kids around who are maybe not enthusiastic about all the running around. Lots of “on the ground” work here. How do you handle that? And tips?

(Might make for a good blog post. Reading about all the amazing connections you put together, I’ve often wondered about the dirty reality of travel day.)

LarryInNYC

There’s a lot of discussion about the “bang bang bang” style of traveling in the comments section on some of the “3 Cards, 3 Continents” posts, so you could look there for some of the back-and-forth about doing this.

I’ve done these arrive-morning, leave-evening stopovers four times.

Two times were with kids (pre-teens and tweens) and they were pretty miserable. No one had enough sleep and everyone was cranky.

Two times were with one other adult (a friend once, my wife once) and those were great. One was an absolutely super day in Seoul and the other used the Turkish “free tour” offer to visit Istanbul.

Bob

Awesome article, Nick. Do you always plan it “on paper” first prior to calling AC? Or it’s possible to book TATL first and then call back to add a few more segments?

Kayexalate

If I book a “flexible reward” (which is all that’s available in business when I was looking for sfo-cai on Nov 2023). I thought I can add another segment (in my case cai-Cdg) later and only pay the additional points and taxes and not pay any change fees?

My plan was to grab the TATL portion first as soon as the seats are released and then call back to add the intra Atlantic portion.

LarryInNYC

Some random comments:

1. Amazing article! I will, in fact, have to read it several times to extract all the wisdom.

2. It’s great what you were able to do with 4 seats. But if you consider 2 pax (another very common travel situation) things open up even more!

3. You might consider labeling the stopover and destination stays “as long as you like” instead of “a few days” to indicate that they’re completely flexible (unless there’s a limit on stopover length imposed by Aeroplan?)

4. Have you requested that Flight Connections add (to their paid tool) options to search Aeroplan partners, and other interesting collections of carriers besides alliances?

5. I really wish the full range of formatting options for blog comments were supported in the mobile browser!