Vote for your favorite 40K to Far Away trip! [Update: the votes are in]

Frequent Miler's 2019 40K to Far Away Challenge is done! Greg, Nick, and Stephen competed to see who could go farthest with 40,000 points and $400! Click here for contest results and next steps.

Who won the 40K to Far Away challenge?  You’ll find the results of the voting poll at the bottom of this post.  Voting was open until Sunday October 20th at 10pm ET.

Greg Nick Stephen
a man eating food in a store a man wearing a hat and headphones a man looking up at the camera
Distance Traveled (click here for details)
>18,000 miles ~16,061 miles ~13,394 miles
40,000 points
Details here
23,500 points
Details here
40,000 points
Details here
Notable Accomplishments

Crossed African continent twice

27-hour sleeper car train journey across South Africa

Way under budget on points (when considering the trip as outlined here and in the link above)

Farthest geographical point from starting location (Brisbane)

Round trip itinerary

Two weeks travel

Visited 6 countries & 9 cities

Washington DC, Madrid,Senegal, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Seychelles Hawaii, Tokyo-Narita, Brisbane Madrid, Boom, Paris, London, Guildford UK, Copenhagen, Atlantic City, Washington DC, Richmond VA
Major Activities

2 self-walk tours

African artisan market

Wine tasting


Lanikai Pillboxes hike

Strolling Naritasan Park

Japanese capsule hotel experience

Brisbane Eat Street Northshore

2 troll hunts

Segway tour

4 self-walk tours

Modes of Transport
Plane, city bus, coach, subway, light rail, walk, boat, taxi, car, sleeper train Plane, city bus, train, walk, Uber Coach, city bus, plane, walk, car, scooter, ferry, tram, Uber, subway, light rail, Segway, shuttle bus, paddleboat ferry
Sleep Summary
3 nights in beds, 1 night on comfy couch, 3 nights on flights 1 night in capsule hotel, 2 nights on planes (one with entire plane row to himself), 1 night at the airport 6 nights in beds, 4 nights in airport, 3 nights on flights/buses
Food Highlights
Spanish dinner in Madrid, Senegalese lunch in Dakar, Chef prepared breakfast in Jo’burg, Wine tasting in Cape Town Shave ice in Hawaii, Ramen in Tokyo, Chocolate fondue-covered brownies and strawberries while listening to jazz in Brisbane Empanadas in Madrid, Curryworst in Boom, Ham baguette in Paris, Sausage roll in London, Scones & clotted cream in UK, Kylling frikadeller & Danish pastries in Copenhagen, Casino buffet in Atlantic City
Why Greg should win…
Why Nick should win…
Why Stephen should win…
I used my points creatively and pushed them to their limits. Within the budget I traversed the African continent twice and was the only one to travel long distance by a mode of transport other than plane. I had amazing experiences and made new friends. I ate well and slept well. I truly enjoyed touring Madrid and Africa, and ending up in the Seychelles was awesome. For more, see: 10 reasons to vote for Greg. I went over budget. It’s true.  But if you look at the trip prior to my going over budget, you’ll see that my trip rocked. I visited Hawaii, Tokyo, and Brisbane for only 23,500 points! For details, see: How Nick can steal your vote for #40KFaraway champ. I traveled for twice as long as Greg & Nick, visited 9 cities in 6 countries, made it back home within my budget, went troll hunting twice and tried food from every place I visited, all while spending the least amount of money and hopefully putting together a trip that you yourself might want to take. See also: 15 Reasons Stephen Should Win

Reminder of 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.  Do we win by ending up the farthest from the starting location?  Do we win by traveling the farthest distances when adding up every segment?  Do we win by experiencing the most things?  Do we win by having the most desirable trip?  The answer is up to our readers.  The winner will be picked by vote.

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

  • Beginning with the first mode of transportation, we must account for all costs within the 40K + $400 budget.  This means that we needed to track payments for food, airport transfers (not counting the original transfer to get to the starting location), lodging, visas, etc.
  • This was a one-way challenge.  We did not need to return to the starting location.
  • We could not accept transit/lodging/food help from readers.  In other words, we could 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 was fine as long as it was the type of thing that would normally happen when traveling.

Vote Now Results

Now that you’ve reviewed each of our trips and read our posts, please pick a winner below.  The poll will remain open until Sunday October 20th at 10pm ET.

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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Hats off to all three of you. All very different trips and tons of knowledge learned and to be shared from this. All three look like amazing adventures. I’m certain that all three trips will serve as inspiration for folks trying to put together their own trips to these parts of the world. As many others have said, I also think this competition has consistently driven some of the best (of the already best) blog content in the past few months.


I voted for Greg because his trip was the most out of the box, involved lots of local people, and used the excurstionest perk to the best


After reading through all the trips report’s before casting my vote.

Nick visited Auckland, NZ but no LOTR movie location visits (tsk, tsk) but I am truly impressed how he travels with all his hats – I struggle traveling with those style hats -but I wear them as well. We are planning on riding the train from Wellington to Auckland next year and hitting Hobbition and a few other LOTR sites. Almost got my vote.

Stephens trip reminded me too much of backpacker trips of the 20th century, truly impressive with the breadth and width of what he did with his miles and money, but more walking and trolls than I care for (I get my troll fill whenever I visit Reddit, lol). Yet I enjoyed his creative money creation and staying under budget. Almost got my vote but just to frugal for an European visit; now if it was M.E., Africa or Asia then we have a contest.

…For the Win:

Staging to return Via Etihad First Apartments- I would have voted for anybody that staged a relaxed on return after the end of the contest traveling in a Eithad 1st Apt for 80K AA ( that wasn’t a short flight).

So Kudos finishing in the Seychelles to return home via Etihad First Apartments for 80K AA -You win -we used 80K AS miles for F seats on BAs A380 -JNB – LHR ($590 fuel surcharge) but F rest of the way LHR to PDX. I think you got the better Hard/Soft product on Eithad.

Win also, since we are spending 16 days this December to visit SA, we’re touring the Mother city (CPT) and region for almost a week – renting a car for 4 days for Safari north of Jozie – then 3 day urban weekend staying in Melrose Arch (Suburb of Jozie) using up the last of our SPG biz SUBs from 2018 on our Hotel stays while in ZA. Planning on visting the Rosebank sunday market and apartheid museum while in Joburg

RE: Train ride
Premier Classe train was awfully tempting to spend a day traveling the SA countryside on a luxury train ride – but in the end we booked seats on BA JNB-CPT-JNB (for AS miles of course). Since DW has finite amount of PTO for 2019. Makes me glad now that we booked travel via air- as all it takes is one train to breakdown to have an issue

Mav Gal Mama

Wow! What a gift this challenge has been to your reader’s, and to the points/miles travel community at large! Frequent Miler is by far my favorite go-to, for tips and tricks and it has been great seeing some of the same insights you three gained, shared so widely, as a direct result of all three of your successes!
There is a plethora of information available on how to “Best” utilize points&miles, often for for high return, on Lux/Elite travel. Many tools and other shared resources exist, that will point the budget, and luxury driven, towards cash deals. The accessibility of the parameters to this challenge, made it unique, and inspirational. Access to 40k and 400$ seems relatively feasible; for seasoned veterans, dabblers, or for newbies,of points&miles travel. FM is particularly good at pointing out ways to bank both points, and occasionally profit, (from potential resale) which made this challenge something readers could immediately connect to.
Finding information that encompasses how basic needs & necessities associated with travel can be met within a single journey, is an arduous task. Focusing on “just the transport”, or “just the accommodations”, or “just the points of interests” of a particular trip, doesn’t necessarily make it feasible. The holistic scope of this challenge was particularly refreshing.
Setting so few rules, and leaving the criteria for winning, open to interpretation, made this challenge ooze with such potential! Now having gained such great insight experiencing these possibilities, outside of bragging rights, What comes next? The reflections made on the how/why things could have been done more efficiently, or with different outcomes, is already scattered in all the blogging. What would make this challenge as enjoyable to participate in again? The time involved in advanced preparation and participation in the challenge, were considerable. If you were repeating the competition again, how might you three remain challenged? Would you find it more challenging inviting in more competitors, or changing the parameters?
The necessity to work within the confines of something, are often the friction that sparks ingenuity. What if, on a similar challenge,family travel were considered? Sleeping on public transport or in airports while traveling as a single adult is one thing, but what if you were traveling as a single adult with a child, or two? Could this challenge have happened with 120k & 1200$ for a single parent as example? What if everyone had 40k each from Amex, Citi, Chase & 400$? What about a couple with a elderly parent, OR/& a single parent with two school aged children OR/& three HS friends/Uni roommates, 20 years later? OR What if the travel had to occur during the holidays? Seeing how far you could get during a universally harder time to travel, like school holidays is truly an ongoing challenge for many people. With resources 1.5x or 2x, more, if you only had 1-2 total days to sandwich, Thanksgiving, Christmas or February break, could it be done? Opening up possibilities with such, “what if” questions could make this challenge varied and repeatable, with all the same potential to open up new insight. Were any of these variables ones that you guys considered while traveling? Is there enough engagement to warrant another such challenge in the future?
At its heart, by investigating potential and sharing your various processes; approaches, experience, expertise, and navigational skills, your teaching of others has absolutely made your audience the winner of this challenge! Gentlemen all the thought, time and consideration you put into this was inspiring & greatly appreciated!

Tim Tsai

This was absolutely fantastic. I voted for Greg but VeRY thin margin. I believe this should be done once a year as a FM tradition. The distances and the content of the trips were all champions in their own right. Experienced or not, they deserve beaucoup kudos for doing this for US!!

Greg’s excursionist trick was what tipped the scale for me. I was never interested un United before. Now I will add that to my arsenal in the future.

Thank you all. And I would like to see this as an annual challenge.


I absolutely believe this is a “no loser” result, and I initially thought this was the goofiest idea yet, but it is an illustration of how different each one of us interprets the joys and challenges of travel. Sometimes it is about the distance, sometimes it is about the experience.
Greg, though, impressed me by his willingness to jump outside our usual comfort zone.
Either way, thank you for a fun, fun challenge.


First of all, kudos to all 3 of you for attempting this and know that I avidly followed along every step of your travels!! I enjoyed the sharing of both FF tips and destination options (can’t wait to search for my own trolls!). I do, however, have to admit a tiny bit of sadness/irritation that you all actually failed the true intent of the challenge: Greg spent 40,811 miles, Steven transferred all his points into cash, and Nick just plain blew the budget. I was so looking forward to learning great TY options to sway me down that CC path or how you maximized UR/MR points for successful economy redemptions which could have have helped families stretch their miles further because not all readers redeem points for aspirational travel or F/J flights. IMHO, Steven is the only one that did not use more than 40k/$400, so he should be the default winner. He went the farthest, saw the most, and stayed within budget…heck, he is the only one that even went round trip! I would love to see a rematch with you all adhering to not just the rules, but the intent of the challenge.


Great post u Looked and Checked ..Greg overspent as Nick and Steve used cash !! TY points are Great I have 5 (5 used too) one ways on United and to change $50 by Singapore points ..I’m pro nothing just what works for that person’s trip @ that time .


Reading all these posts was an absolute joy. What a fun way to get away from the “everything is about flying first class” ethos of every other travel blog out there.

Look forward to seeing what’s you come up with next time!


I want to join the other readers in thanking the three of you; it took my mind off of work issues, and I learned a lot. To search for round trip as well as one way fares, to use the excursionist feature (but Greg should give an h/t to the Travel is Free article from Drew, which also had the cheap Madrid to Dakar fare as well) and of course Nick- since I leave near a United hub, the question is whether I should now be collecting Thank You points? (only 2 years doing this, so have only done Chase and Amex so far) Prestige or Premier, DoubleCash, and a Simon Mall close by. Need I hint more?
I did vote for Greg, but now I am thinking about Stephen staying with his folks and Greg visiting friends in Capetown. Nick did not have any friends or relatives at any of his stops. (Although he seemed to meet up with other points enthusiasts in Hawaii) I worried about Stephen sleeping in a rental car at night on the street, staying in downtown Atlantic City (I’m from NJ, so I know about the crime there) and walking through Paris in the middle of the night. Not things I would do, even in my younger years.
Anyway, I’m writing this while on business in Chicago in another IHG hotel at O’Hare while you all are close by. Wish I was there. Hope you are having a good time! (and that you didn’t get caught in the traffic jam last night)

Traci Money

I wanted so bad to vote for you Stephen but Greg had more experiences with locals so that totally won me kver.


Quite enjoyed it, even though I would never, ever, ever, do it myself (maybe 30 years ago, but not now!).
Found it odd that food was included in the budget, just as it often is included in other posts in other places. I, personally, eat whether I am at home or away, so why would it be differentiated in a travel budget?
Definitely think that the next time, if there is a next time, should be a round trip challenge to make it more relatable for your readers. As noted in another comment, I wouldn’t imagine most of your readers really want to know how to get somewhere with no way back.


Nick tortured himself with the lack of sleep, Stephen came back to America (one can only wonder what he could have done instead and come on, an Atlantic City buffet…) so I voted for Greg. All in all, it was fun sitting on my comfy couch read about your travels.