Vote Now! Who should win 3 Cards, 3 Continents?

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The last two weeks saw a whirlwind of (very different) travels from our 3 Cards, 3 Continents contestants – and with their “dream trips” finally done, it’s time to vote for a winner!

Vote now! Or read some helpful recaps below before you decide.

Ask us Anything: Want to hear from the contestants directly before you vote? Join us LIVE on Youtube Wednesday Sep 28 at 9PM ET. In addition to the Frequent Miler team, Greg’s culinary concierge Maisie Wilhelm will answer questions about the 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge. Subscribe to our YouTube channel here, (and click the bell icon next to the “subscribe” button to enable notifications from our channel.)

Maybe you liked the action-packed nature of Nick’s trip as he stretched the limits of how much one person can see (and do) in a short period of time, (even including a trip above the arctic circle to visit Santa Claus!) Or maybe you preferred Stephen’s clever approach with a trip that included both the world’s shortest flight as well as the world’s longest flight, (not to mention other world-records sprinkled in along the way). Or perhaps you were most excited by Greg’s food-inspired itinerary with culinary adventures in food-havens like Vietnam and Turkey and other exclusive experiences curated by his very own culinary concierge, featuring everything from Michelin-star meals to cocktails made with worms.

What is 3 Cards, 3 Continents? Frequent Miler loves creating fun and competitive team challenges. This year Greg, Nick, and Stephen are competing to book the most amazing 3-continent dream-trip using 3 credit card welcome bonuses.

Watch the videos and Instagram stories

As Greg, Nick, and Stephen were busy eating exotic foods and flying all over the world, we were busy documenting their journeys on Instagram. If you missed these live updates, don’t worry, they’re all still visible on our “Highlight Reels” on Instagram. If you’re not familiar with highlight reels, here’s how you can find them within Instagram:

  1. Search for “Frequent Miler” in your Instagram App and click on our name once it appears. (You’ll recognize us by the picture of Greg and Nick in green.)
  2. This will take you to our profile. Somewhere below our name and description, you’ll see a row of little green circles. These are our “highlight reels”. (Sometimes Instagram puts a “Suggested For You” area before it and sometimes they don’t, but the main thing to remember is that you’re looking for the row of little circles.)

  3. If you look closely, you’ll see cartoon sketches of Greg, Nick, and Stephen on the first three little circles in that row. Or, you can also look for the title “3C3C Team…” Click on each circle to see that person’s collection of videos.

While instagram will give you the most complete picture of each contestant’s trip as it plaid out over the last two weeks, you can also catch the videos we’ve reposted onto YouTube below:

But now let’s review each contestant’s trip below…

Nick’s Adventure

Read the full recap of Nick’s journey here.

Nick’s trip started with the pyramids in Cairo and a boat across the Bosphorus in Istanbul to tackle his 3-continent requirement by day 2. This was the first surprise of his trip, but he had plenty more in store. For instance swimming with whale sharks in Oman the very next day. He then proudly left the airport in Bangkok (something he hadn’t achieved in 40K to Far Away Challenge 2 years before), visited a Michelin Bib Gourmand food stall in Singapore, and went off-grid for some canyoneering in Cebu, Philippines. But the biggest surprise of his trip happened next, when he made his way above the Arctic Circle to visit Santa Clause in Rovaniemi Finland, (something Greg had joked about in a pre-trip podcast episode). While there, he caught an incredible view of the Northern Lights – as if his trip hadn’t been epic enough already.

But that didn’t cover everything: make sure to read Nick’s full recap.

Here’s why Nick believes he should win (in Nick’s own words):

At the outset of the 3 Cards, 3 Continents challenge, I knew I wanted to go big. I wanted to take some glamorous flights and cover wide distances and showcase some of the really cool things you can do with miles and points — both in terms of airlines and activities (by virtue of being able to get to far-flung places).

I also wanted to spend 10 or 11 days living the life of a jet-setter, flying to many destinations for short visits (something my wife and kids would never tolerate). While I know it isn’t everyone’s dream to visit Muscat for just long enough to snorkel with whale sharks and sea turtles before jetting off overnight for a day of running around Bangkok just to sprint back to the airport in time to catch a flight to Singapore to sleep, but to me that was a dream. It wasn’t exhausting, it was exhilarating.

Speaking of exhilaration, I got several tastes of it throughout this trip: there was the feeling of seeing the pyramids, a sight that as a kid I never expected I would actually see; the moment I noticed a whale shark coming from behind me and passing within an arm’s reach; the waterfall I slid down backwards and head-first or the many cliffs of ~10′ or more from which I jumped after zip lining across a huge valley in Cebu, Philippines; there was the moment I walked into Santa’s workshop in the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, Finland and felt like a kid meeting Santa, and the night I spent north of the Arctic Circle and under the Northern Lights, a phenomenon I’ve wanted to see since I knew it existed. To anyone who felt bad for me because of the pace of my trip, don’t. Most people I know would feel incredibly fortunate to cross one of those things off a bucket list. I did all of them in 12 days. If that’s not living the dream, I don’t know what is.

To think that I did all of the above with just the rewards from 3 credit card bonuses and $1,000 is a feat that I find truly notable. I hope that others find it inspirational. For me, the point wasn’t about showing you a trip you would like to replicate, but rather showing you a trip that would inspire you to know that whatever it is that exists on your bucket list is within reach with 3 new credit cards (or less).  There’s no reason not to make your dream trip happen. With a little time and effort and focus, anything is possible. I did it — now it’s your turn. Right after you vote for me.

Stephen’s Adventure

Read the full recap of Stephen’s journey here.

Stephen’s trip was bookended by the world’s shortest flight at the start and the world’s longest flight at the finish. The shortest flight (under 2 minutes!) required him to make his way to Aberdeen and then onward to Scotland’s rugged Orkney Islands. His next stop, Cairo, is one he and his wife had visited fairly recently, so instead of the typical pyramid activities, he took advantage of this visit by checking out the Hyatt Regency Cairo West, catching up on rest, and seeing another world record site – the Tahya Misr Bridge (the world’s widest cable stayed bridge). From there, he headed to Singapore where he did some sight-seeing in the city as well as within the impressive Changi Airport (including a rooftop pool!) At last, he boarded the world’s longest flight homeward to JFK.

Make sure to read Stephen’s full recap here for even more details.

Here’s why Stephen believes he should win (in Stephen’s own words):

For me, part of planning a dream trip means not having nightmares resulting from it. Due to the complexity and elaborateness of both Greg and Nick’s trips, they had some problems during the booking phase and even when their trip was underway. Within a few days of the Card Draft back in June I had nearly all my travel booked and so was able to sit back and enjoy the last 2.5 months while Greg and Nick had to fret about award availability and their budget. The extent of my issues related to a hotel costing 2,000 points more than I thought and not booking tickets for the Sound & Light Show at the Pyramids of Giza in time.

Despite going for the more stress-free route, I still had a fantastic trip. I flew both the world’s shortest and longest flights which I doubt many other people have done during the same trip. I got to explore Singapore which I’ve been interested in visiting for some time, checked out the new Hyatt Regency Cairo West which I’d missed out on last year, got to see the Orkney Islands which my wife and I now want to return to, used an American Airlines sweet spot for great value in Etihad business class, experienced the brand new Norse Atlantic Airways which we’ll likely fly again when heading home to the UK, saw Neolithic homes older than the Pyramids and more.

All this was done while staying $75 under my travel budget and spending less than $550 on food and activities over the course of 10 days, showing that you can create a dream trip that doesn’t break the bank.

Greg’s Adventure

Read the full recap of Greg’s journey here.

Greg decided to bring a secret weapon with him – a culinary concierge: Maisie Wilhelm. Together, he and Maisie had a delicious food-centric trip with a secondary theme featuring water activities. They started out with an especially shocking treat: worm-cocktails from Chef Peter Cuong Franklin then a tour of the Mekong Delta in Saigon. This was followed by a crazy, middle-of-the-night adventure in Doha, dancing with locals on a pleasure cruise. Sofia, Bulgaria had more food than water-activities, but in Istanbul they checked both boxes again with a local food tour and a rowing lesson on the Golden Horn. The climax of the trip came next with a gorgeous Norwegian fjord tour – a personal dream for Greg. To satisfy their third continent requirement, Greg and Maisie finished their trip at Niagara Falls. And of course, this incredible journey was sprinkled throughout with fabulous restaurants like Lysverket and Pearl Morissette all along the way.

This doesn’t cover all the fascinating culinary adventures, so be sure to read Greg’s full recap here.

Here’s why Greg believes he should win (in Greg’s own words):

Maisie and I had an absolutely fantastic round the world trip!  We visited 7 countries in 3 continents.  At every stop we ate amazing food and enjoyed amazing experiences, including all kinds of boat rides from paddling in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, to rowing the Golden Horn at sunrise in Istanbul, to a fjord cruise of a lifetime in Norway, to riding into Niagara Falls’ mist.  And, we traveled in luxury the whole way.  We stayed 8 nights in terrific hotels.  Our long flights were all in lie-flat business class seats and most of our short flights too were incredibly comfortable.  Our business class tickets gave us access to swank airport lounges and had the added benefit that we could travel with real luggage: we didn’t have to worry about baggage fees (unlike my competitors who flew parts of their journeys on low cost carriers and carried all of their stuff on their backs to avoid paying extra). While Stephen and Nick did a great job in putting together truly amazing trips, I think you’ll agree that Team Greg’s trip is the only one that most travelers would be eager to replicate.

Finally, the technical achievement of booking an ANA Round the World award for only 90,000 points shouldn’t be overlooked (especially since I had to find two seats on each flight!).  I managed to use up almost every single mile of the 14,000 flown miles allowed with that award.  Sure, a last minute SNAFU caused me to go slightly over budget but that hardly diminishes the overall accomplishment.  If anyone were to book a similar trip they could (and should!) allocate more time to each stop.  And if they did so, the SNAFU I ran into wouldn’t be possible since it was caused by the artificially short stop we had in Toronto.

Vote Now

Polls close Friday Sep 30 at 8pm ET.  Before voting, please read the full trip recaps posted separately by each contestant:

Who do you think won the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge?

  • Nick (66%, 633 Votes)
  • Greg (22%, 208 Votes)
  • Stephen (12%, 117 Votes)

Total Voters: 958

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Captain Greg

Good god, everyone wins. Everyone wins! 3 trips of a lifetime. 99.999% of people will never do anything like this, but all 3 of you put together incredible trips with just 3 sign up bonuses. Yes, I will vote for one trip I think was the best, but I’m not even going to say who that is because each trip was so impressive. Kudos to all. As always, Frequent Miler is the BEST!

StephenH

Of course, the real winners are us, the readers!

Great content and this is why I value FM over the other blogs.

Larry

Coolest trip — Nick.
Best redemption — Greg

My vote? Stephen. He had me at world’s shortest flight. I love stuff like that.

Cavedweller

I just voted and I agree 100% with u for the same reasons. But Yoder kept people Looking unlike last Trip..
V. Bernie

Marcus

If I had 3 votes, one would be for Stephen for ease of planning (planning the trip is part of the trip whether enjoyable or a headache) and for the remote, shortest flight on a tiny plane that made me think it must have felt like a bird above the islands. One would be for Nick for the stopover festival, getting in as much as possible, and sheer adrenaline. And the last vote (my real vote) for Greg because to have a travel companion and make new friends is everything.

John Ryan

I think I’d vote for Nick, although they’re all excellent trips, and Greg definitely is a very close 2nd.

SAMUEL L. BRONKOWITZ, Hammers Fan

STEPHEN PEPPER…….NOW, FOREVER,ALWAYS……..HE’S THE MAN!

Kelly

I immensely enjoyed all of these trips as demonstrations of what you CAN do with points and miles, but there was only really one trip that I WANTED to do, and that was Greg’s! (the food concierge really sealed the deal on that one)

Would love to see a ladies challenge … Nick walking to the airport alone in the dark was a fantastic example of how men and women have to plan trips very differently for safety reasons.

Shae Pepper

As one of the ladies… I agree wholeheartedly

panda

Stephen makes a good point that “planning a dream trip means not having nightmares resulting from it.” It would be helpful if an ‘estimated redemption time’ was included for the trips. If you have to spend 10 hours/week for 2 months to plan a trip, it becomes unrealistic for an average person. Time is money.

Cavedweller

Unless ur an average person who’s retired or like a Great Hobby..
V Bernie

Bill

If a comment sits for more than 55 minutes and you don’t comment, does the bus explode?

Cavedweller

Of course not but if ur trading and theirs a slack in the action u look at over places.
I work 5am to 7pm 5 days a week what do u do watch TV ?
V Bernie

Nick Reyes

We covered this a few times in questions either through Ask Us Anything (not the one last night, but the previous one) or through other channels. Yeah, Greg and I put a lot of time into planning, but that’s something we actively enjoy doing. I recently likened it to a puzzle game — if you’re the type of person who enjoys crosswords and Soduku, you probably also enjoy hunting for the pieces of the puzzle to put together great trips, so you (or at least I) don’t really measure how long you spent doing it because it wasn’t a laborious thing but rather what you have fun doing. And at least in my case, the point was also to be competitive, not to be done quickly. I do spend my free time looking up flights and hotels — that’s just what I enjoy. I can’t remember the last time I watched a full sporting event or TV show and while I did watch one movie during my travels on this trip, I can’t otherwise remember the last one I watched. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some of those things, but I generally just enjoy using my free time to plan trips. It didn’t require me to agonize over it for 10 hours a week for 2 months, but that certainly is something I’m into. In terms of actual booking, I booked the AA awards and cash tickets all online myself, so that took minutes to actually book, though yes I did spend hours looking at different routes to get a sense for where I could originate. The Air Canada award took longer in terms of looking up flights and writing down information because I wanted to connect stuff that gave me long layovers specifically because I wanted to visit a bunch of interesting places. But when it came time to book, it wasn’t very hard to do. Sure, I also spent time researching activities and how I’d get to my hotels from the airport and all of that stuff — but, again, that’s all like puzzle pieces that I enjoy doing. And as I’ve said, I don’t expect anyone will try to replicate my exact trip, so the amount of time I spent putting it together isn’t necessarily indicative of how long it would take you to book an awesome Aeroplan award that stops over somewhere and has a long layover somewhere else en route to one main destination or whatever it is that you actually have in mind to do.

Of course, if you don’t enjoy doing that stuff but rather look at it as a necessary evil to get the end result you want, then I imagine you wouldn’t plan a trip like this. And that’s totally valid — different strokes for different folks. If that’s you, I’d expect that a subscription to something like Point.me or AwardLogic would pay dividends for you and I could see the appeal of Stephen’s trip.

And to be clear, I’m not arguing against Stephen’s point — like I said, it’s a totally valid perspective. It’s just not one I share.

Cavedweller

Yes maybe it takes Time the first time to get a deal and do it right but the second time ? I can do a Waikiki or Paris trip in an hour which is a Perfect trip for me.
It’s called Fun !
V Bernie

panda

I guess time is too variable because it really depends on your past experience and expertise. A useful measure would not be the time it took but the difficulty of finding an particular award… or “Ease of booking”. For example, finding an LH F award would be “very difficult” and require a lot of searching and knowledge. Finding a United economy award would be “easy”. I enjoy a puzzle but recent award availability has made it a really frustrating puzzle.

Shae Pepper

To be fair, Stephen is always planning our 8 yr 50 state road trip. So his quota of planning is quickly eaten up since we move every 7-10 days.

Additionally, during this planning time he was in the middle of supporting me as I rode my bicycle across Iowa with RAGBRAI.

He does the planning work… It just wasn’t for this trip, this time.

Last edited 2 months ago by Shae Pepper
panda

Yeah that goes along with what I’m saying. If you have to play Mission Impossible for every trip you take, you won’t have time to get everything else done in life. It’s obviously different if miles and points is your profession though.

Bagira

Lol, that’s the amount of time I usually spend to plan larger (10-14 days) trips for my family! I am with Nick here, I do not watch TV shows or do Crosswords. I would totally do that (award booking) for living and that would be my dream job if only that brought enough money 🙂

Mona comstock

I vote for Nick’s itinerary. It was very inspiring

LarryInNYC

In retrospect, I think Stephen had a disadvantage going into the competition. While we probably shouldn’t traffic in cultural stereotypes in this case it’s true that Stephen is the epitome of the self-effacing Englishman. It’s not that he couldn’t complete with Nick’s “hey, I got your North Pole right here, buddy” and Greg’s “how’re you enjoying the back of that plane?” attitude, is that he didn’t want to.

Nick won on presentation. For the first half of the trip it was “guess where Nick is going next” and “just how far can he go on one ticket”? Then, the back half was “what’s this big finish he keeps advertising”? And Santa Claus at the end? That was almost theatrical, like the big karate match in the final act if the movie where the underdog wins. With team Greg it was more the standard “we just had a nice day in city X” travelog. And I think Greg underused his ace in the hole and should have written and IGed more about the food experiences. For instance, that food tour in Istanbul could have been complete fascinating (or not), but we really didn’t hear anything about it .

Stephen also had the idea of getting people to play along at home to guess the next world record he was interested in but, unfortunately, once he did the Westray flights most of us guessed what the other big item was. And, because the Singapore flight was so expensive in points it limited his other redemptions.

In terms of fulfilling the goals of the competition, I think Stephen is in the lead. Sure, Toronto counts according to rules but: really? I don’t think people envisioned that someplace you could drive to, round-trip, in one day from your home would be included as a separate continent.  Especially since it seems that Greg threw it in the not because it was part of any dream itinerary but just because it was all he had the miles for. Plus, Greg went over budget. 

Nick, on the other hand, is claiming credit for having visited Africa by spending 15 daylight hours in Cairo. He didn’t even sleep there. And he couldn’t have extended his stay (much), since it was a layover. The layover is somewhat redeemed by his having aggressively used it for seeing a real “dream destination” for him (and, I’m guessing, lots of other people as well). But, still, he barely squeaks in Africa.  And I’m not giving him credit for an extra continent above the Arctic circle, not because I don’t buy the argument but because without the stop in Finland he barely visited Europe. One layover in Istanbul during which he. . . went to Asia and an overnight in Budapest to tie together two flights in which he didn’t actually do anything in the city as far as I can tell.

Stephen slept on all three of his continents. He had some bad luck in Cairo which meant that it didn’t feature prominently in his reporting, but he was really there (and could have stayed as long as he wanted). And I wish he had taken the tube into London during his overnight at LHR (or, maybe, used the high fees from the LHR-Cairo flight to get to Paris and fly from there). But he really did hit three continents without caveats.

I put the most emphasis on “where did you go” and here I think Nick really shined.  He hit a bunch of items that I think anyone would agree are lifetime should-sees (the pyramids, that snorkeling trip, the Grand Palace, a Singapore hawker center), he had the most stops, and he just seemed to have the most fun. He also did the best job reporting how great the stops were, with Stephen in second in terms of reporting. Greg? He’s a frood who really knows where his (microfiber) towel is, but I wasn’t so aware of where he was, or what he was doing. I think he had great raw material to report on, he just didn’t make the most of it. And Nick’s trip was very varied — major cities (Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore), history (the pyramids), nature (Oman and the Philippines), foodie (the hawker center), luxury (the Waldorf, the first class Qatar lounge), economy (Wizz Air and the EasyHotel).

Also, it felt like Nick was going where he wanted to without being forced into a particular itinerary by his point budget. With Greg’s trip it felt like “how can I make this 14k ANA allocation work”, although he does get credit. And Stephen was kind of limited by spending so many miles on the Singapore redemption.

In the end, I’ve got to give it to Nick. His is the trip I’ll be thinking about when booking my own future trips.

Ryan del Mundo

diving with whale sharks in Oman wasn’t Africa? Thanks for your opus – that was quite an essay!!! 🙂

LarryInNYC

You are correct, Oman is not in Africa. It is in Asia.

Bob

Have not read the voting status yet, but . . . Stephen had a neat overall theme (world records), but he had the up front advantages (points/miles from the 3 cards) and his trip by comparison should have been more overwhelming . . . Greg had the self-selected added technical challenges of arranging travel for 2 people; he also had a great theme “Travel for foodies while we play with/on the water,” but he did go over budget . . . Finally, Nick overwhelmed with his pure energy/stamina and a bevy of experiences; and, given that he lost the last challenge based largely on going overbudget (which is why I voted for Greg back then), I have to give Nick the nod this time . . .

Robert

I had to vote for Greg, after your Noma visit my wife has decided we’re going back to Denmark.

But Rovaniemi… Love me some Suomi!

Robert

Whale sharks nearly pushed Nick to the top…

Cavedweller

A Bull Shark would do the same thing and cheaper to find too ,
ALOHA

Robert

Can I vote for Caroline’s glasses? Reminds me of heavy eyewear from my very nerdy days in the 1980s

Cavedweller

They should Delete the vote and put her as the 4th pick and Start Over..
Let’s see how liberal this Blog is .
V Bernie

T. Jones

This was a tough decision for me. All 3 of you booked some amazing trips.
I generally prefer a slower paced trip where I have plenty of time to experience many things, so Stephen’s trip really resonated with me.
I was impressed by Greg’s ability to book a RTW trip for two. Furthermore, his ability to make such efficient use of his Marriott card pick is no small feat. Congratulations on not getting Bonvoyed.
While I was initially put off by Nick seemingly frantic pace, I had to admit he packed a ton of locations and amazing experiences into his budget. Truly his ability to maximize the value of his points cannot be overlooked.
So while I enjoyed reading about each FM team member’s journey, at the end of the day I had to cast my vote for Nick. Great job, Nick! You knocked this one out of the park!

Origami

Before the competition my money was on Greg, because I loved his RtW choice and the hotels were going to be extremely good. I thought Stephen had a chance due to his smart planning skills, and Nick would look interesting but end up with a lesser version of Greg’s trip.

However, I am surprised that in the end I voted Nick. His locations were just slightly better than Greg’s, IMHO (even though Greg’s are on my list for future travel) and they gave him a chance at a wide variety of things that appeal to me. Greg and Maisie had a fantastic trip, and the hotels almost made the difference, however. Stephen’s trip was good, and I’ve already recommended his PE flight to friends.

Of course, those of us who got to read about such great trips and learn some new tricks are winners too.

Ryan del Mundo

Love everyone’s story! Stephen your trip was amazing with your long and short metaphors, I loved it. Thanks for finding some cool places I decided I now need to visit. Greg as always manages to get creative (I loved the food slant). Glad you made it home, sounds like we almost lost you in Canada, eh? (there’s no bus from Toronto to Detroit?!)

Still, I think Nick gets this one. He nearly killed himself running around the world doing things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of in my 20’s (Back when I was taking night buses backpacking through Tanzania and Malawi to save money on hotels!). I respect what he did, and hope no one will ever punish themselves to do it again so fast!

I’ve loved all of these Challenges that “put actions to words” or “points/earning to travel” but they’ve all been in some ways painful to watch as travel should be something enjoyed slowly!

Maybe for the next Challenge you can continue the “guest” aspect and find some volunteers (“ahem” interns!) to take the trips for you. Then you three can sit back at Headquarters and watch your team execute on the plan while you sip margaritas in Cancun at the all-inclusive, just like the Generals do. 😉

Cheers and thanks, I loved watching the ride!

veeRob

I mean is voting even necessary at this point? We all know who won.

AlexL

All three amazing trips. Nick got my vote because of arctic circle and Northern lights.

Melissa

Great trips all of you! My vote is for Greg because he seems to travel in the style most like mine- high end! I like luxury trips. All the trips were awesome though truly! Can’t go wrong!

Carolyn

I’d love to go on trips with any of you – great itineraries and fabulous sites and sights. I find Stephen’s trip the best because it’s not so frantic and includes unusual venues – and seems to include the best of the ancient world (Orkney) and the modern (longest flight ever, just announced).

Josh

Well done guys!! Another amazing challenge in the books! Loved following this on instagram!!! Love that you guys are posting so much there!!

Nick got my vote this time around! But Greg and Stephen I love you guys as well!

Can’t wait for the next challenge!!

Jak

I thoroughly enjoyed following the madness of all the travel and adventures,. Nick definitely gets my vote, followed by Greg and Stephen.

Nick: He would have received my vote for “40K’ if he’d stayed within budget. Both that and this trip have that crazy adventure vibe that matches my preferences. I would totally do all of the things he did on this trip. Of course the activities aren’t really a criteria for this competition, so I’m not using that for my criteria.
I think his trip best shows what is possible using miles/points. You can take a world adventure and do awesome things. All it takes is a lot of knowledge of miles/points (which Nick and team share on this site), a little imagination, and a lot of effort.

Greg: If I were traveling with my spouse, this is probably the kind of trip we’d take: luxury travel, amazing food, unique adventures, actual luggage (though just carry-ons). They packed so much into their trip.
Even though Nick was DQ’ed in the “40K” challenge for going over budget, I won’t ding Greg much here. Canada as the third continent, while within the rules, did lower the score.
Eat Well, Travel Often. Greg’s trip embodied that philosophy.
(Even though I understand that the activities don’t count, I do have to say that the tours and tastings that aren’t typically available to all did leave me a bit bummed because everything else about all these trips are possible to everyone except those.)

Stephen: My reason for placing Stephen last is pretty much the same as the “40K” challenge: rather than using miles/points for travel, he cashed them in and mostly did a cash trip. I understand that budget travel is something that people are interested in, but I imagined this competition would be more about award travel. Also Stephen states that he was done booking his travel within a few days. Again, I can see how a typical traveler might do it, but this was a competition where you want to see the competitors put in lots of effort and outdo each other. Missing the light show in Cairo even though he had 2.5 months to plan was disappointing.

ucipass

I would not do what Nick did with the multiple overnight <24h stopover but I have done several single stopover on a longer trip. I think a separate post should deserve potential stopovers for each partners. Some of the good ones:

  • Panama City on your the way to South America
  • Hong Kong and Singapore were very easy pre-covid in Asia
  • Addis Ababa and Johannesburg in Africa
  • Pretty much all major European airport My favorite is Rome, Madrid, Paris and Vienna. Istanbul seems like an easy <24h stopover too.

My vote is hands down Nick! Thanks for the sacrifices 🙂

Vince

Actual activities, etc are irrelevant, especially as it was not budgeted, and that is very individual at the end of the day. What is important is the how and where the budgets allowed the contestant to go, and how practical and applicable it is to replicate. Nick squeezed a lot of travel out of his points but unfortunately in a method nobody (or at least not the most of us) would want to do. Stephen’s was admirable, but just short of Greg’s itinerary. So having said that, the winner is Greg, hands down. He built a high value trip which by the rules of his ticketing, easily could have been altered to a ‘real’ round the world trip (meaning realistic stopovers, etc) without any actual change in cost. So when looking to see what you can do with 3 card sign ups and limited cash, his trip can’t be beat.

Cavedweller

U must work for the Government at this time or be a Trust Fund Baby ..V Bernie

CaveLiberator

Looks like you need to go back to your cave. You also need some grammar lessons based upon the content of 99% of your posts

Cavedweller

Next post I’ll shoot for 100%.
LOL
V Bernie

Last edited 2 months ago by Cavedweller
Whitney

Well done all! I loved this competition and I can’t wait to see what you cook up next. There was no doubt in my mind that Nick is the winner, followed by Greg and then Stephen. Here’s why:

Nick: I think Nick’s trip best demonstrates the bounds of what you can do with points and miles which is, after all, what we’re all here for. Plus the flex on Greg’s offhand comment about the North Pole and Santa’s workshop is just *chef’s kiss*. I also think Nick probably did the best job of documenting his trip in real time so that we the viewers could experience it with him. The biggest drawback to Nicks’ trip for me was the pace and almost exclusively relying on overnight flights in place of accommodations. Most of us aren’t going to do a multi-layover trip as Nick did, and the trip isn’t really replicable unless you do. That said, I would happily do one long layover and one stopover on a one-way ticket and feel very satisfied – so I think the broad outlines work in the “real world” when scaled down. I kind of think of Nick’s trip like the concept cars we see from automakers or the crazy styles models wear on the runway – sure, that exact thing isn’t going to be deployed widely but it’s something to spark an idea and get you excited, then you take pieces of that into your actual plans.

Greg: I love that Greg’s trip is both aspirational AND one that could be expanded upon very easily, and I think the places he went were interesting. The fact that he managed to find 2 premium cabin seats available for nearly all of their flights is also a bonus that helps his trip stand out from the rest. He also gets point for documenting his trip in real time so that we could live the trip with him and Maisie. For most of the trip, Greg was a close second for me. He obviously loses points for going over budget, but I see this as a relatively minor infraction because it’s something that would have been a non-issue for most people in most circumstances. The fact that his third continent was North America was a big let down and put a lot more distance between him and Nick IMO. Finally, though the culinary adventure did look amazing, I can’t award him points for that given that activities were not budget constrained and is not something a normal person could easily replicate.

Stephen: Oh Stephen, I really, really wanted to like your trip. I think the world record idea was fabulous, but the execution just fell flat for me given that it was really just the longest/shortest flights. Which admittedly IS cool. I don’t fault you for the bridge in Cairo being closed but also… longest cable something bridge? It just didn’t get me excited. All of that though I recognize is a matter of personal taste and given that I didn’t give Greg (or Nick) points for their activities, I don’t deduct points from Stephen on the same basis. There are two key reasons why I just can’t give Stephen my vote: First, he really didn’t demonstrate amazing ways to use miles and points. His trip relied heavily on cash bookings (including cashing out 100% of the points from the Ink card and a third of the points from the Amex welcome offer). While yes, it was within the rules, it’s not exactly a creative or inspiring use of points which was kind of the whole point of the competition. I could have given more grace for this if he’d been stuck with bad draft positions and had to make the best of a bad lot, but that just wasn’t the case. Second, maybe it’s just my perception but I feel like we didn’t see much from Stephen during his trip, and when we did it was briefly and without much excitement (the Westray flight excepted), so I didn’t feel like we were on the adventure with him in the same way that it did with Greg and Nick. While I love that Stephen went on his dream trip, I just can’t give him my vote in this competition.

Andrew

This is really tough and I haven’t decided yet. I was trying to figure out why Greg seemed to have never had to fly on the cheap and ultimately it’s because of the canada “loophole.” (meaning it’s clearly in the rules, but I personally find it lame)

If either of the others had taken a very short and very cheap positioning flight to Canada to start their trip they could’ve done 4 continents. I’m willing to ignore the over budget for the same reason I’m not giving any credit for booking 2 tickets, it wasn’t part of the challenge and he did have a flight back.

Cavedweller

Wait 24 hrs ur Mind will Clear for a Proper Vote..V Bernie

Cavedweller

Yoder came in first for her Trip updates and her recap of whatever u called this. I’ll wait till the last minute to vote but so far the vote have gone in error.
CHEERs

Big Jeff

I was most impressed with Greg’s experiences! But how many points does it cost to hire a personal culinary concierge? I don’t see that accounted for in his points breakdown, so that should be an automatic DQ.

Cavedweller

HE paid for her trip with private funds. Food is Good this is a higher end Blog and maybe she can class it up a little bit more in the future.I asked years ago for more Great photos and getting them now on this contest..
CHEERs

Last edited 2 months ago by Cavedweller
LarryInNYC

The majority of the things they did (meals, markets, tours) are all publicly accessible. Only the late opening in Saigon, the car hood caviar in Stockholm, and the morning restaurant tour in Bergen (?) seem to have required special connections.

Big Jeff

Her food tours look AMAZING! And start around $8,000 per person per city, so to replicate Greg’s personalized tour it would cost a normal person around $48,000…

Christian

Greg’s help walks a little too close to the line of hiring someone or having an entourage that does things for you. If the blog clearly offered to cover the expenses of an entourage for any of them beforehand as long as award space for them could be found, then Greg is about even with Nick IMO.

Nick Reyes

That’s only because you haven’t seen my entourage 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by Nick Reyes
Christian

Fair enough I suppose but you never mentioned one. If you’re being serious, I’d love to know how many people were in your group to make the multiple awards found an even better accomplishment for all who did it. Even if I could, I wouldn’t rescind my vote for you. You had me at whale sharks.

Nick Reyes

I was totally joking about the entourage I would have brought!

That said, I didn’t think much about the multiple passenger booking angle. There was only one flight in my itinerary that only had space for a single passenger at the time I booked it (Manila to Doha, which I think was only true when I rebooked it at some point). In hindsight, I should have collected screen shots showing space for two or more passengers on each flight, it just didn’t dawn on me to do that. Silly in hindsight not to highlight that!

PM1

I lived vicariously through Nick, Stephen & Greg the past couple of months, waking up each morning to check the blog for new entries. Although Nick is the clear winner IMHO, Stephen and Greg also blew me away with their creativity. Kudos all!

usernamechuck

Oh, I have a suggestion: open it up to your readers / fellow bloggers! Ask people to send you their planned itineraries, pick ~10-15 in October (maybe 10ish “regular people” and a few bloggers), another 10-15 in November, have people vote… and in December, the “family category.” Give a prize of miles / points to the winners. Instead of having a “draft” of cards, which couldn’t work with lots of people, let people use any 3 cards they’ve opened in the last 12 months. It would be interesting to see what people come up with, and how they execute. Also, it’d be curious to see if other bloggers would try to show you up…

usernamechuck

I enjoyed the premise, but I wonder if the artificially constrained endpoint was in keeping with the idea. After all: if two people have the same budget and one spends less per day, the payoff is that she/he can travel longer. I suspect Stephen might have stretched out his time while remaining within budget, which I would have found amusing. The constraints of the competition favored something exciting, and that was Nick’s trip.

Elizabeth

All were so fun- Stephen’s reminded me I might have relatives in Orkney so I asked my dad (mom’s relative but she has dementia). He verified I did and has since passed away.

But I had to give the vote to Greg. Many of us want to travel in business and face the challenge of finding two tickets to locations we would want to go to for a reasonable redemption.

usernamechuck

Remember, you can’t always judge how the election will go by early voting. In recent elections, early voters tend not to be conservative… maybe the country club republican crowd will weigh in to support Greg

Grant

I have 2 questions for the Ask Us Anything:

  1. If there is 1 part of your trip that you could change to make your trip better, what would it be?
  2. Now that you know what the other competitors did, which of their trips would you rather go on (Greg needs to pick from Stephen or Nick, Nick needs to pick from Greg or Stephen, and Stephen needs to pick from Greg or Nick).

Looking forward to watching the Ask Us Anything 🙂

rdover1

I have thoroughly enjoyed following all of your adventures. Nick’s was the most fun (IMHO) and broadest, Gregg’s was the one I’d most like to replicate myself and Steven’s was what most may actually try.

I suspect Maisie is now booked out through 2024 with all this positive exposure! I hope you guys keep up the collaboration with her.

Thank you all for your efforts and keeping us informed and well entertained!!

Dr. McFrugal

Nick is the clear winner in this challenge.

I developed a scoring system and here is what each scored:

  • Nick: 50/50 (a perfect score)
  • Stephen: 42/50
  • Greg: 33/50

Here is my scoring system for the challenge:

1.   Did contestant meet the criteria of the challenge?
·       Nick – 11
§ Nick impressively stayed within budget (considering all the places he went to and all that he did). He also earns an extra bonus point for visiting a potential fourth continent in visiting Santa at the Arctic Circle / North Pole.
·       Greg – 0
§ Greg went over budget. I wouldn’t totally disqualify him because of that, nevertheless he shouldn’t get any points in this category.
·       Stephen – 10
§ Stephen met the criteria of visiting 3 continents and stayed within budget. He deserves full credit here.

2.   Did contestant deliver educational value during this challenge?
·       Nick – 10
§ Nick demonstrated a new sweet spot with the Aeroplan award chart visiting 6 countries on 5 different airlines with one one-way ticket. That deserves full credit because it is helpful for Frequent Miler readers.
·       Greg – 8
§ Greg demonstrated that it is possible to find ANA around the world award space for two people and cover three continents. But this idea isn’t exactly new or unique and because of that, he deserves an 8.
·       Stephen – 8
§ Stephen deserves credit for highlighting the world’s shortest and longest flights.

3.   Did contestant deliver entertainment value during this challenge?
·       Nick – 10
§ Nick’s trip was action packed and he kept readers guessing on the edge of their seats of where he might go and what he might do next. It was fun to follow along.
·       Greg – 8
§ Greg’s trip looked fun too and it helped that he brought a culinary concierge. However, seeing Greg try exotic foods and try to pronounce “Qatar” correctly was slightly cringey imo.
·       Stephen – 7
§ Stephen started off strong with something unexpected with the world’s shortest flight. But the rest of the trip was slightly disappointing (Egypt), not as exciting (Singapore), and somewhat predictable (world’s longest flight was easy to predict).

4.   Did contestant take their “dream trip”?
·       Nick – 10
§ This is a big win for Nick. Without a doubt, he took his dream trip. He wanted to do a fast-paced, action-packed, whirlwind trip around the world; something that he simply could not do with his wife and kids. He created a trip full of unique experiences (swimming with whale sharks, meeting Santa, falling backwards in a waterfall, etc.). He designed a well-planned trip and successfully executed it. Not only that, he stayed within budget and even got to visit Bangkok this time!
·       Greg – 8
§ Greg did a great job planning his trip with Maisie. And he did it all flying in premium class too. But he doesn’t’ get full credit because his last leg was stressful, disappointing, and he went over budget. If he had planned better, perhaps he would deserve a 9 or 10.
·       Stephen – 8
§ Stephen doesn’t get full credit here mostly because things didn’t go as planned in Egypt and it doesn’t seem like he did a whole lot.

5.   Did contestant take what readers would consider a “dream trip”?
·       Nick – 9
§ I would say half of the people in the points and miles community fall in the camp of “see as many places as possible and stretch your budget” and the other half would be “use points and miles to reduce the cost of aspirational travel”. For those in the first camp, Nick’s trip could be a considered a dream trip. He saw so many places and did so many things in such a short time. He could have done a stopover in Egypt and did more, but they had to complete the trip within a two-week time period. Not everybody wants to sleep in a capsule, or a hostel or on the plane, but there’s plenty of young 20 something budget travels that love it.
·       Greg – 9
§ Greg deserves a 9 because there a lot of people who would love to take his kind of trip too. I imagine a slightly older crowd who enjoy traveling in comfort and luxury while enjoying the finer things in life. The Tauk crowd. For this demographic, Greg’s trip could be their dream trip.
·       Stephen – 9
§ Stephen’s travel style is much more slow-paced and relaxed. For those who enjoy slow travel, Stephen is your guy.

MFK

I voted for Nick due to the complexity and length of his Aeroplan booking and the interesting destinations he chose and activities he was able to squeeze into his layovers. I’ve already mapped out a trip next year that will take me to Cebu for some lechon and canyoneering and bookmarked the Daymaniyat Islands for a future visit to Oman.

Delynn

My DH and I were split-Stephen went somewhere I’d actually want to go (Kirkwall, Orkneys) and his time in Singapore was much better spent (to me) than Nick’s.

DH loved Nick’s comfortable (for the most part) travel style as well as the adventures.

Greg sadly was a distant distant third for a variety of reasons.

Mary

Just wanted to say thank you for a very entertaining and enlightening challenge. During the challenge, I was traveling in Italy, and then sidelined in a hotel room by Covid. Not the best ending to my own trip, so it was nice to have yours to enjoy!

All three of you did a great job. I was less into Stephen’s approach, because while I’m a discount diva, what I really seek out is high-end travel at bargain prices. Stephen’s more “backpacker” style is certainly great for lots of people, especially younger people who don’t feel the loss of comfy Business Class seats, etc. It just isn’t what I want.

I was quite torn between Nick and Greg. Both of their trips appealed to me a great deal, both used a lot of clever tricks and both went for luxury travel whenever possible. Ultimately it came down to Nick going above and beyond with that “4th continent,” and Greg going a tiny bit over budget… so I voted for Nick.

I really enjoyed what Maisie brought to the table (ha) and I suspect I will be using her consulting services. I thought including her was brilliant.

Cavedweller

What’s $61 among friends the Food and Photos were much better.. V Bernie

Big Ern Mckracken

VOTE FOR STEPHEN PEPPER, he is always there for us to save money.

Sco

Nick took the trip that most excited me, Greg took the the trip that I probably would have liked most, and Stephen took the trip that I could actually see myself doing.

Personally, I’m ignoring the activities since anybody could spend as much as they want on those and the fun of the challenge is to see who does best within the constraints. In the end, I went for Nick just because of the sheer amount of destinations he was able to plan and the amount of flying.

I do worry that maybe I’m subconsciously being too harsh on Greg simply because I happen to have already been to all of his destinations. However, I will say that the single thing I found most impressive during the whole challenge was that Greg was able to find availability for 2 on an itinerary that fit the rest of his constraints!

Gwen

I think Nick’s trip really showed us the crazy things you can do with points and miles! While I would never want to do that exact trip it has inspired me. While I thought long layovers would not be something I would be interested in – thinking back on past trips there were several cities where there were a few activities that I ran out of time to do. A 24 hour layover would be perfect to see that one museum, attraction or do that activity.

Well done by everyone at the FM team! We enjoyed following all of the trips.

Sam

My vote reasoning: Nick got my vote because he followed the “spirit of the competition” by showing what you can achieve with 3 cards & SUB’s. He displayed how to leverage outsized value in a transfer partner & fun things to do at each stop (Oman, here I come!). I also learned the most from Nick’s trip, wich was kinda the point here. Greg got 2nd because he went over budget. Also, I can’t use miles & points to get that “insider” culinary experience. Those Amex miles don’t get me after hours meals & Michelin kitchen tours. No Maisie to be had from my miles! Stephen got 3rd. While having the best draft, booked & took a bad a*s trip that I would want to book(!) & certainly displayed points & miles creativity, he bought & sold a gift card, which disqualified him – just my opinion as it was obviously allowed by the other two.
Either way, great job by all. Keep up the great work. I appreciate you three, Maisie & Caroline + Tim for holding the fort down during your globetrotting! Looking forward to the next one. Thanks for doing this 🙂

Bagira

I do not think you should penalize Stephen this much. What he did is available for any regular person to do, he did not follow any secret shady paths. But my reason giving him the third place is exactly why I think Nick is first – I did not see that creativity and outsized value from his trip. I had a similar thought with 40K challenge they did. I feel like Stephen choses the easy way of travelling (and that is totally fine!), but Nick goes above and beyond to find things that you can them learn from and replicate in your trips.

Overall, such a fantastic experience! I do not remember the last time I was checking Instagram daily, and I did that when you were on the road! Can’t wait for your next challenge!

Last edited 2 months ago by Bagira
Sam

Like a father to a son, perhaps Im too tough on Stephen Pepper. I look forward to his content the most so my expectations are too high 🙂

gary

All these trips were excellent examples of how creative and powerful the use of points and miles can be to see the world. Frequent Miler is the most objective site with information regarding the best credit card opportunities. Contests like this really opened my eyes to the possibilities. I give Nick my vote for amazing use of Aeroplan stopovers, with Greg second with the ANA RTW trip. Very entertaining!

AAfromca

nick easy!

Tom

Maybe I’m misremembering, but I could have sworn in one of the early podcasts discussing the rules of the competition said that gift card reselling wasn’t going to be allowed.

It seems outside the bounds of what a “normal” person would be willing/able to do.

Stephen Pepper

Manufactured spending as a way of increasing your points balance wasn’t allowed, but there weren’t any rules regarding how points earned from the card draft could be redeemed.

Nick Reyes

Didn’t resell – I bought a GC using 1 MR point for a discount. We had discussed that and decided it was within the rules.

David

Nick gets my vote. I was blown away by how he visited 3 continents pretty much before Greg and Stephen even got started. Then he managed to visit the Philippines and Cebu which is only about 60 miles (as the crow flies from my home). Before the challenge started, I had thought anyone that visits the Philippines will get my vote. Greg made me second think with his visits to Stockholm and Bergen, but Nick sealed the deal with his visit to Finland, something I would never have anticipated. I very much appreciated the way that Nick showed a couple of great ways to use miles (Aeroplan and the AA Asia/Middle East booking). Despite it being within the rules, I have a hard time accepting Greg’s 3rd continent of North America being a visit to Toronto which is mere miles from his home. Stephen’s trip was interesting and not to be ignored, but it just didn’t compare.

Frank

Not to be a wet blanket, but Europe and Asia are truly one continent. Politically they are called two continents but we all know that is a fiction. South America and 99% of Africa bypassed. I do appreciate the uniqueness of each trip, finding special awards, and seeing how far one can go on relatively few miles.

Sam

I agree. Africa is definitely not convenient. Maybe (if available) connect via ET down to Kilimanjaro or Kenya for a Safari? Fly QR to Doha & continue on? South America is certainly the most time consuming & least convenient/connected – but definitely doable. I believe QR & maybe EK fly to GRU? AM via MEX to many destinations. Santiago to Rapa Nui would have been a real game changer (however unrealistic). Either way, if any of the 3 would have gone deeper in either continent, They would made a strong case indeed.

Bagira

I agree! I think there are a lot of content about those continents and South America is largely overlooked

Swede

Ain’t this hobby just the greatest? Digging all three trips, but have to give the nod to Nick. All the trips were awesome, but what Nick put together, and the way he did it, is so up my alley. Stephen, Greg/Maisie, mom still loves you…she just loves Nick a little more.

Last edited 2 months ago by Swede
docntx

Loved them all. Hard to choose a “Best in Show” between a Pomeranian and a Mastiff.
Would have loved proactive COVID related explanations about restrictions during their travels. Unless I missed them, the only one that stood out was Greg and Maisie’s “test timing” thing.
Good job. Fun to see how we stretch the rules. I guess that is what this “hobby” is all about.

Nick Reyes

Good question. There were no COVID restrictions apart from the fact that several countries I visited supposedly required either being vaccinated or a test result. The only places where I was actually asked for my COVID vaccination were flying to Singapore and out from Manila. Actually, come to think of it, the Philippines had an online health attestation to fill out and a QR code to generate. It was a pretty simple questionnaire asking whether I was vaccinated and we’re I’d been in the past couple of weeks. I needed all my personal details like passport number, issue date, expiration date, etc, so it took five or ten minutes to fill out, but I did it at the airport at check in and that was fine. Masks were still widely worn in Asia (both on flights and in public places and they were required in some airports) and almost not at all in Europe. Overall, it was very easy on that front.

Stephen Pepper

I didn’t have any COVID-related restrictions for my travel – none of the places I visited even required any kind of COVID test.

docntx

Thank you guys!
For some unexplainable reason I cannot “like” you on the replies
You make it a lot of fun, and kept our spirits up during rougher times.