My Round the World business class adventure (planning phase)


I have 269,000 miles set to expire soon, and there’s no practical way to extend their life other than to use them to book future award flights.  I previously wrote about my dilemma here: 269,000 ANA miles expire in about 9 months. What to do?  At the time of that writing, my points were set to expire March 31 2021, but more recently, ANA has promised to extend the miles until September 30, 2021 for those who register (which I did, of course).  That’s great, but I still need to figure out what to do with my miles by then.  I don’t think another extension is very likely.

My situation has been a big problem… for at least one of my readers.  In a recent “Ask Us Anything,” a participant declared his suffering and offered up a great solution:

32:56 – ​Greg your ANA “dilemma” is causing ME sleepless nights. Why don’t you book an open ended year long ANA RTW [Round the World] trip for you and your wife? Could Also be a great challenge for Greg! ​

I think that’s a great idea.  We know that ANA’s “round the world” award is one of the best deals in travel (see: Around the world in business class for 115K [Sweet spot spotlight]).  There’s arguably no better way for me to use my miles and I’ll almost certainly learn things along the way that will benefit readers.  Let’s do it!

This is the first of what will likely be a series of posts about my planning this around the world business class adventure.

Around the World Objectives

Here are my initial thoughts about a Round the World trip that my wife and I would like to do, ideally starting January 2022 (Obviously, if worldwide travel isn’t an option by then we’ll have to change our plans):

South Africa

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot

We have a good friend who lives in Cape Town and we are determined to visit her and her family.  I visited them myself in 2019 thanks to the 40K to Far Away Challenge (see this post for details), but it was only for 1 day and without my wife.  We’d like to bake in a safari trip while in South Africa and maybe even see Chef Bjarne as well (if you’re reading this Bjarne, dinner and drinks will be on us).


My wife has a friend/colleague from England who is currently living in Delhi.  She has invited us to visit and we’d love to take her up on that.


One of the many trips we cancelled in 2020 was my wife’s business trip to Singapore where she has a friend/colleague.  We haven’t ever been to Singapore, but we’d like to visit and see our friend.


My wife will be on sabbatical this winter and has a potential opportunity to collaborate with a group in Australia. If that pans out, we would make southeast Australia our home base and would venture out from there for occasional trips around Australia.

New Zealand

We’ve never been to New Zealand, but we’ve long been itching to go.  I imagine that we might do a couple of trips to New Zealand while staying longer term in Australia.

Is ANA’s Round the World award a good fit?

ANA’s Round the World award is priced based on distance bands.  Here is a selection of the business class Round the World award prices for two adults:

  • Distance of 18,001 – 20,000 miles costs 230,000 ANA miles for 2 adults
  • Distance of 20,001 – 22,000 miles costs 250,000 ANA miles for 2 adults
  • Distance of 22,001 – 25,000 miles costs 290,000 ANA miles for 2 adults
  • Distance of 25,001 – 29,000 miles costs 340,000 ANA miles for 2 adults
  • Distance of 29,001 – 34,000 miles costs 400,000 ANA miles for 2 adults

My 269,000 ANA miles would be more than enough to fly up to 22,000 miles around the world.  Flying farther would require me to transfer more Amex Membership Rewards points to ANA.  Here’s how much I’d have to transfer for each distance band:

  • Distance of 22,001 – 25,000 miles: I’d have to transfer 21,000 points.
  • Distance of 25,001 – 29,000 miles: I’d have to transfer 71,000 points.
  • Distance of 29,001 – 34,000 miles: I’d have to transfer 131,000 points.

Obviously I’d prefer not to transfer any more points to ANA.  On the other hand, I do want to use up all of my ANA miles before they expire.  So, I’d say that the ideal distance band for me is 22,001 to 25,000 miles.  That would require transferring only 21K more points and would use up all of my soon-to-expire miles.

In order to get an idea of the distance I would likely fly, I used Google Flights not to find award space, but to find Star Alliance routes that were likely candidates for my trip.  Later I’ll worry more about award availability.  The purpose of this exercise was just to get an idea of the likely mileage.

ANA’s Round the World awards require traveling in one direction (e.g. west to east or vice versa) and require crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Using Great Circle Mapper, I mapped out a potential route that starts in Detroit and ends in Los Angeles.  I could use other miles to fly the last segment home.  Finding nonstop business class award space from New Zealand to the US for 2 adults is extremely unlikely, but I was willing to sneak in one very unlikely award to shoot for.  If I couldn’t get that exact route (Auckland to Los Angeles), I could try instead to find award seats from Auckland to San Francisco, Houston, or Chicago.

According to Great Circle Mapper, the route shown above is a combined distance of 29,655 miles.  That’s just over the amount needed for the 25,001 – 29,000 mile band.  Instead, this puts me into the 29,001 – 34,000 mile band (which would cost 400K ANA miles for 2).  I’d have to transfer 131,000 points to cover this award.  The good news is that this band would give me quite a bit of wiggle-room in case I wanted to add additional stops or if the ideal award space options were less direct.  The bad news is that it’s not a great optimization of my miles.

Is it worth mixing awards?

As I mentioned before, the sweet-spot for me to use up my ANA miles is to do a Round the World award that fits in the 22,001 to 25,000 mile band.  Would it make sense for me to cut out some stops in order to make that happen and then separately book the missing pieces?

To test this idea, I removed Singapore, Sydney, and Auckland from the Round the World itinerary and added a likely stop or layover in Tokyo:

According to Great Circle Mapper, the route shown above is a combined distance of 24,128 miles.  That’s perfect!  I could book that route for 2 adults for only 290,000 ANA miles.  I would only need to transfer 21,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to make that happen.

Great, but is it worth it?  By cutting out Singapore, Sydney, and Auckland I’d save 110,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, but I’d still want to go to those places.  If I used a different currency (or multiple other currencies), could I fly from Delhi or Tokyo to Singapore, Sydney, Auckland, and then back to Tokyo for fewer than 110,000 points for 2 adults in business class?  That’s only 55,000 miles per person.  I don’t think it’s possible.  Most programs would charge considerably more than that for a similar itinerary.

A more practical route

Now that I’m mostly consigned to the idea that I’ll end up paying 400K ANA miles for this Round the World adventure, I’m starting to wonder if I could really piece it together.  What if I can’t find non-stop award availability from New Zealand or Australia to the US?  Would a more likely route still fit within the 29,001 – 34,000 mile band?

In my experience, finding business class award space flying ANA isn’t too hard.  Flying ANA back to the U.S. would require a stopover or layover in Tokyo.  So, let’s say that I take out the New Zealand part of the trip (I could book that separately).  Here’s a route that seems reasonable:

According to Great Circle Mapper, the route shown above is a combined distance of 31,803 miles.  That’s well within the band limits.  Let’s see if I could get all the way home instead:

In the above route, my return flight is Sydney to Tokyo to Chicago to Detroit.  According to Great Circle Mapper, that brings us to a combined distance of 33,183 miles.  This is still within the 29,001 – 34,000 mile band, but it’s getting close!

Could I sneak in a visit to New Zealand as well?  Not quite…

According to Great Circle Mapper, the route shown above is a combined distance of 35,132 miles.  That’s more than 1,000 miles above the 29,001 – 34,000 mile band.

I could fix the above issue by returning to San Francisco from Tokyo.  I would then have to book the final flight back to Detroit separately.  Nah.  If I can find non-stop award space from New Zealand to the US, that would be much better.  If not, I’ll probably use a different award currency to book trips from Australia to New Zealand.

Next Step: Award Seeking

I can start immediately looking for award space to start the journey, but assuming that we spend a few months away, I can’t yet look for award space for the return.  Most airlines begin to release award space about 11 months before departure.  If we assume that the final legs of our journey will be sometime in March 2022, then I might not be able to find award space for the whole journey until April 2021, at best.

In my opinion, the best tool for finding award space for each segment of the journey is  United does a good job of showing Star Alliance award space in calendar view.  One “gotcha” is that they often show mixed cabin award space where part of the journey is in economy and part in business.  Ideally, of course, we’d book everything in business class and so I’ll keep an eye out for that issue.

Meanwhile, I’ve already used SeatSpy to setup alerts for the following routes to let me know if United Airlines releases business class award space for 2:

US to South Africa:

  • Newark to Cape Town
  • Newark to Johannesburg

Return from Australia or New Zealand:

  • Auckland to San Francisco
  • Melbourne to Los Angeles
  • Melbourne to San Francisco
  • Sydney to Houston
  • Sydney to Los Angeles
  • Sydney to San Francisco

Reader Suggestions

Do you have any ideas for improving the plans and ideas I described above?  Route suggestions that would lower award costs?  “Must-do” stops along the way?  Please comment below!

0 0 votes
Post Rating
Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Great piece. Looking forward to living vicariously!


Ethiad miles are only 13,000 from memory to fly Virgin business SYD to Queenstown in New Zealand. you can then work your way north to Auckland and fly Latam business one way back to SYD for about 350USD. That would keep you under your milage limit. I live in Auckland and have pretty much given up on star alliance to the USA as Air NZ so rarely release space, Alaska much better as can stop in Fiji or go via australia.


Here’s a tip – don’t route through Asia to get to your starting point in Africa.
My very first international award redemption was a OneWorld RTW Economy trip in 2011, and the ONLY availability to kick off in South Africa was to fly ORD-HKG-JNB with no time outside the airport in HKG. I staggered out of JNB airport into a waiting tour guide’s mini bus and passed out dead at the lodge. At least it was on CX, and at least I was young!
ORD-HKG-JNB(stop)-HKG(stop)-SGN(open jaw),BKK-NRT(stop)-LAX-SFO(stop)-MIA-CUN(stop)-LIM(stop)-MAD(open jaw),BRU-ORD
160,000 AAdvantage miles (46,216 miles flown all on one ticket)


This is a great aspiration! I’m surprised that you don’t think finding availability will be an issue. Do you think availability for 4 can be done on this kind of trip?


Once did a OneWorld Business Class RTW – 2003-2004. 7 months straight (Would of been longer but I ended it earlier due to fatigue). Unlimited segments I think, Not sure if there was a mileage maximum. Those were the days. 220,000 AA miles? In the days before lie-flat business class..except I had Dubai-LHR in BA new lie flat.

It was a paper ticket to boot. Went through all Australia cap cities except Tasmania. Up to Asia/India to Middle East, then to LHR. I had many more Euro segments, but ended it early.

Have done 2 more…2nd one was 4 months (2010) and that was buying tickets as I went, and 3rd one was a quick 2+ week trip in 2019.

Last edited 2 years ago by whocares

Have you looked at LAX-AKL with a stopover in Fiji on Air Fiji? Or possibly starting your RTW in Hawaii, then from there to AKL? I know you have good options to Hawaii, and that would cut off a huge chunk of RTW mileage. Availability out HNL might be better than LAX too.

Those flights to the south pacific and australia that pre covid were unicorns might be possible now.

With so many of your destinations in the southern hemisphere, seems like a major waste to hop up and down to HND or such.


i have an ANA award ticket where one segment (UA 777-200) has been cancelled. the ANA rep said that if i cancel the award ticket (rather than booking a replacement flight) the miles redeposited will have a new expiration date of 3 years from now. that’s great! i suppose you can hope for a cancelled segment in your RTW itinerary to extend those miles!


Hmmm. What happens if a flight is canceled after you’ve already flown some of the segments?


Two points:

If you go on safari in South Africa, I highly recommend Phinda. We had an amazing time there.

Travel to/from Australia and New Zealand will not be easy, even by next winter. I have several business colleagues in those countries and they are being told they will not be able to travel outside those countries until 2022 at the earliest. Since they have largely gotten rid of Covid and are going about their business as usual, they are being very protective of bringing cases in from abroad.


Oh one more thing. If you have low cost access to international calling, instead of calling the toll free US number for ANA, call one of their smaller hubs like the one in Singapore or Malaysia or HKG. If the line is dropped or if you need to call back for whatever reason, you have a higher chance of speaking with the person you spoke to, or the person who you believe has the best service attitude.

I would go with Malaysia if ANA operates a call center there. Friendly yet professional is what I look for in a call center. It’s no surprise that Korean Air has their global cal center based in Malaysia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur, The Datai Hotel, East Malaysia), which by the way, you can also visit if your SEAsia base is BKK. There’s a train from KUL to SIN but it’s not as luxurious as the Eastern Oriental train.


Glad you agree. I meant to say Penang island, Kuala Lumpur, The Datai Hotel, East Malaysia are all places worth visiting in Malaysia.


I was looking through my phone’s contact list and found numbers for ANA Hong Kong (+852 2810 7100) and Singapore (+65 6323 4333). This means I’ve called them at those numbers before.

For ANA Hong Kong, I noted Tammy Lee provided exceptional service. Hope this helps.


We’re planning a RTW trip using ANA for our family of 5.
I had read that going westward avoids having to adjust for the loss of time. Even an hour’s loss is a hassle with kids.
For the open jaw segments, we were planning to use United’s Excursionist perk, local train rides, and a repositioning cruise. But the cruise may not be an option anymore.
I’m looking forward to read more about your trip!


Not “must do” but great if you could get them along the way—Singapore to Perth to Sydney and Sydney or Auckland to Fiji to USA. Perth is a fascinating city and is rarely visited by Americans (as is Western Australia). We loved it. Also Fiji has many very nice resorts and is easy to do on points (you can get an overwater villa at the Marriott Momi Bay, which was our first experience with overwater villas). No idea what is doable with *A but may be worth a look-see. Another thought would be to see if you could squeeze Bangkok in between Delhi and Singapore. Lots to see out there!


Hi Greg, Great to read about your ANA RTW adventure. If I may, here are some suggestions that might help.

If you can maximize the route to fly on ANA’s own new business class, that’d be great. One of the routes pre-pandemic was LHR-HND I believe, among other US routes. LHR-HND would be a tall order because it would bypass much of the Asian continent and DEL. However, it’d be a step up compared to the Biz that Nick flew on previously.

To help conserve mileage, BKK or SIN might be a great place in South East Asia to get into Australia and New Zealand. I grew up in SIN but believe that BKK is a larger hub with more options for budget flights with Business Class options, but I may be wrong. SIN is an expensive expensive expensive city. Some of my friends from Washington DC and San Francisco complain about the cost of living in Singapore. BKK or SIN might also get you into DEL but that might be too much of a hassle.

With BKK as your hub, you and your wife might want to consider the Eastern Oriental train to Singapore.

With BKK or SIN as a base to explore Australia and NZ, you would be able to use your current mileage balance I believe.

Also, have you considered using open jaws if allowed?

As far as lounges go, I can only speak about ANA’s First Lounge in NRT. On that trip, I specifically went to compare United’s First Lounge (upstairs from their Biz lounge) and ANA’s. I still prefer the ambience and services of the former but the latter is far quieter.

Let me know if I can help with any questions.

Earl Baker

Love this article. The RTW trip really interests me, as it seems to be almost too good to be true. But I still have two big questions after reading several articles about RTW ticketing:

a. Do you have to book the entire trip at once when you buy the RTW ticket? Or do you buy the RTW “ticket” and then book individual flights as you go? As you point out, the availability of award seats six months or more from now is an iffy proposition.

b. Are you able to grab available award seats for your RTW booking regardless of which level of award is available? (i.e., can you take the “everyday” awards seats, or are you only allowed to use “saver” awards seats?

Thanks for your help! I look forward to reading more articles in this series!

Earl Baker

Thank you!! That definitely raises the level of difficulty!


I did an ANA RTW in 2019 13 countries, 9 airlines, 6 continents. Lessons learned include: ANA mileage calculation was less than GC map. Best source for taxes and fees was the Star Alliance RTW website. ANA reps are some of the best in the business. Sometimes ANA won’t see J class space that you can clearly see on United and Expertflyer. They tried to tell me there is a married segment rule with TAP. Before calling I would enter all my flights into ANA’s website to check. J class availability limits you to a lot of star alliance hubs, so I had to book separate flights to venture out from there. Oceania was really hard to find availability to from the US, searching from Asia helped. I had to plan my entire flight around award availability for United from RIO to Houston. Have a great trip. I would like to do one of these again sometime.


My first thoughts for options, though others have already touched on some of these, any one of which would put your original itinerary under 29k:
1) End in HNL instead of LAX
2) Take the train from CPT to JNB
3) Cheap cash ticket from SYD to AKL (if you are planning a couple trips to NZ, I assume you would be doing the others this way anyway)
4) Separate UA excursionist perk to cover one of the flights in Africa

If you do 1 and 4 and one of the others then you can get down to under 25k, though not sure if the extra cost would justify the savings at that point.


If we’re assuming SAA would still be flying come the next northern winter time, I would fly the following itinerary :
IAD-ACC-JNB-CPT-ADD-DEL // SIN-SYD-AKL-YVR-DEN for a trip total of 28,460 miles. I would then also book DTW-IAD to start the trip with 25.5k UA miles in F so I can fly business class from DEL to SIN with SQ as my Excursionist Perk. Lastly, I’ll book a cheap 12.5k miles Economy flight from DEN to DTW to round out my UA round-trip booking and to get home. I’ll be onboard SAA from IAD all the way to CPT, then Ethiopian from CPT to DEL. DEL-SIN-SYD wil be flown aboard SQ while the trans Tasman hop from SYD to AKL is aboard Air NZ. The transpacific flight from AKL to DEN is onboard Air Canada. This would leave me only needing to transfer 71k MR points (a saving of 60k MR points over getting home via Japan). However, I would also have to cough up 38k UA miles. That’s a tradeoff I can live with, especially with the knowledge this will also take care of my final flight back to DTW.

If we assume SAA will not be around, the itinerary will be as follow:
EWR-LIS-CPT-ADD-DEL // SIN-SYD-AKL-YVR-ORD. This itinerary totals 28,823 miles. Will also mix this ANA RTW ticket with UA First Class DTW to EWR for 25.5k UA miles, SQ J class DEL – SIN as the Excursionist Perk, and a cheap ORD to DTW in Economy for only 7.3k UA miles. Total 32.8k UA miles.


If you’re looking to open-jaws something in the middle of the itinerary (like CPT to ADD), I wonder if that would be a good use of the United Excursionist perk? Indeed, if you need positioning flights within the US, either for actually positioning to a staring/ending airport or to keep the ANA mileage down, you might be able to find save awards for that/those flight(s) that would generate the excursionist flight elsewhere in the itinerary.


Great write up. I love the planning aspect of travel and is exactly why I got into this game (and to fly in the premium cabin, of course). This is just a small part of your trip but I had success twice flying IAH-SYD on UA 101 in Polaris. Both times it was space that UA opened less than a week from my departure (5 days and 3 days) which I felt like I won the lottery because this is notorious for being one of the hardest if not the hardest ticket to get in UA’s network. I paid cash upgrade on the return leg as economy was dirt cheap ($550) and the upgrade at the gate was an additional $700. I’ll pay that for the 14:50hr return flight. With that said, best of luck finding that elusive Australia/New Zealand nonstop option. I would suggest booking everything else using miles and perhaps do what I did and find a cheap economy one way and pay to upgrade. The stress over finding J space on those routings isn’t worth it, at least to me. Overall, between the miles and cash you still come out ahead on an around the world business class trip.


Greg, why dont you book a cheap DET-EWR on Delta, and then use your first route?


Ack scratch that. Just realized that would only save you 455 miles, so not enough.


For your Australia-New Zealand flights, cash tickets on Jetstar may be a good solution even if they are all economy. They fly to several cities and the flights from Sydney or Brisbane are only about 4-5 hours.


Was wondering how you plan to fly the domestic CPT to JNB route with SAA still very much in limbo? No other Star Alliance member fly the route.


Maybe not the train this time. ^_^

Ronald Russo

I see your HND-SYD segment goes backwards in direction. I thought that wasn’t allowed?


ANA allows some degree of lateral movement in order to position for moving the ball further down the field. I don’t know whether their computers determine what’s allowed or whether it’s up to the agents.


I believe they would allow this. Their backtracking rule seems to be applied by the agents, and it’s very broad. It’s basically that you can’t cross from one of the IATA-defined “Areas” like Europe, then into Asia, and then back to Europe. Other than that, you have a lot of flexibility. I believe IATA calls them TC1, TC2, TC3.


Great idea, best wishes on your itinerary! I booked two ANA RTW tickets for the wife and I. (Only actually flew one due to the pandemic.) Took every scrap of my intermediate flyer skill to put it together.

Dodging the fuel surcharges was the worst. Sadly, ANA is completely opaque regarding which programs will bring fuel surcharges. You call, feed them everything, and they eventually calculate the fees and let you know the total. No breakdown by airline. And unfortunately, I found that all the “scientific” ways of predicting the fees did not work: (1) Various blogs have suggestions on what to expect on how various carriers will charge, but they seem to have been outdated by the time I did my second RTW booking. (2) I tried making some dummy RT ANA itins to predict which carriers would charge what on which routes, but that did not match up with the RTW pricing. (3) Tried using ITA Matrix to predict, but that did not end up helping. The only thing I think I learned was that Air Canada seemed to be a safe bet for low surcharges.

In your first map, you start in DTW and end in LAX, which can be a helpful move if you need to stretch your ANA mileage (as you know, one of the rules is that you start and end in the same country). Another good way to do that: You could end in HNL and book a separate ticket back to DTW.

I think you already allude to this in your post, but if you get desperate, you can always break the itin with open jaws, and fill in the missing segment with a cheap economy flight to keep your ANA mileage in the range you want. Open jaw segments do not count against your RTW mileage as ANA counts it.

If you like living on the edge, one of the absolute gems about ANA RTW is the fact that you can book any segment in a lower cabin than your itinerary and later, if it opens up in the cabin you want, you can tell ANA to bump up into your “main” cabin for free. (No charge, no miles paid; just a recalculation of the airport taxes.) Risky, perhaps, but it sure helped me when I had to book a RTW with a specific time and city constraint. Ended up getting bumped up to United Polaris HNL-NRT that was originally booked in economy.

When you go to book, be aware that not all ANA agents will apply the exact same rules to how to calculate milage. It seems that they’re supposed to calculate it the same way you do above with GC Mapper. (And they will not add the open jaw legs to the total mileage.) But sometimes an agent will come up with a much higher mileage, and occasionally, an agent will inexplicably charge you less miles. YMMV. HUCA as needed.

Oh, and watch out for married segments. I looked up business class from LIM-EWR on Copa using would show me business if I searched all the way through, but would show no business class on individual segments (i.e. LIM-PTY and PTY-EWR). If you find married segments, you’ll want to feed them to the agent as a group, not individual segments as you otherwise would.

Anyways, looking forward to hearing all the nitty-gritty details of your booking and travel experience!


Maybe a chance to use UA’s weird Explorist rules to do HNL-DTW??



  • Quite sure that would work based on my sample bookings I gave ANA. Even if one agent took issue with it, I would HUCA.
  • For me, that didn’t help. Even if you get some data with dummy RT’s, the RTW fees are calculated and given to you in one total. And they seem to be dependent on so many opaque rules (like which is the country of origin, destination, which are the stopovers/layovers, etc.) So if the fees are way off what you expected and if you have several carriers that you suspect might be the source, it may be impossible to figure out which leg/carrier is the culprit. You could ask for the YR and YQ breakdown on the RTW (they do preserve those as two separate subtotals). Maybe one carrier likes to use YR and another YQ for fuel surcharges, so you might be able to figure out something that way. If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s you!
  • Right on. And since you have 2 passengers: Let’s say you find 1 seat in business and 2 or more in economy on a segment you really want. But maybe you think more business class will open up later. You could consider booking the two in economy and set yourself a seat alert for 2 business seats later. (I don’t think you can split the two passengers into two different classes—do tell if you find out otherwise.)

Just think! You can pick up every Covid variant in the World !


“SuperCOVID” variants caused by vaccine from the looks of it. First being reported in South Africa, Brazil, USA, and UK. Not coincidentally…places where covid shot was exclusively teste for Moderna/Pfizer/Oxford/75% of J&J.

virus adaptation / evolution.

Parts Unknown



Great idea!

I have only done one RTW trip and it was decades ago. But I went westward and I have heard that direction is easier on conquering jet lag. Might not be feasible for you but just a thought.


that’s what I read too…and that’s how I did my first one.


I think it is mainly because there are fewer redeye flights and easier to adjust.