“World’s Best” Round the World Trip w/ Points

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Sometimes an idea gets stuck in my head and I can’t shake it until I’ve fleshed it out.  A week ago, I published “The Best Points-Bookable Hotels in the World” based on Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels list.  In that post, I identified 18 top 100 hotels that can be booked with points.  And, of those 18, I found that 12 offer great point value compared to cash rates.  So here’s the idea that got stuck in my head… wouldn’t it be cool to book a Round the World trip to visit all 12 of those hotels?  Is it feasible?  What would it cost?

In the title of this post I put “World’s Best” in quotes because I don’t truly believe that hotels that happen to make it onto Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 list are really the world’s best hotels. But I do think that most of them are likely to be very good and some are likely to be truly great.  So, to me, the list is a great starting point.


Do you remember my plans for a Round the World Business Class Adventure?  I had 269,000 ANA miles set to expire September 30, 2021 and vague plans for lots of international travel in early 2022 during my wife’s sabbatical.  So, I decided to use my ANA miles to book us a business class round the world adventure to South Africa, India, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.

Those plans have been scuttled for now.  Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are not yet open to U.S. tourists and I think it’s unlikely that they’ll each be open by early next year.  So, we’ve made alternate plans for this coming winter.  And ANA has promised to extend the life of our miles to March 31, 2022 so we have more time to plan an eventual Round the World adventure.  What follows is not related to my actual plans…


Round the World Award

ANA’s Round the World award chart. Add up the mileage of all flown segments (do not include open-jaws) to determine the distance band for the award. The columns labelled “Required Mileage” show the number of ANA miles that are required for that Round the World trip.

ANA’s “round the world” award is one of the best deals in travel.  For as few as 115,000 miles per person it’s possible to fly around the world in business class on Star Alliance airlines.  For details, see these posts:

You can get ANA miles by transferring from Amex Membership Rewards.  To book a Round the World Award, you must book an itinerary that crosses both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and you can have a maximum of 12 flight segments and 4 open-jaws and 8 stopovers.  Full rules can be found here: Tips for booking ANA’s Round the World award.

“World’s Best” Stopovers

The idea here is that we would put together a Round the World trip with stopovers designed to allow us to visit each of the “World’s Best” hotels that offer great value when booked with points.  Toward that end, I’ve identified the following desired stopovers:

Lima, Peru (Hotel Paracas & Tambo del Inka)

Two hotels in Peru made the list.  Neither is particularly close to Lima, but the idea here is that you would fly to Lima as part of the Round the World trip and separately book transportation to these hotels:

Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort:

This hotel is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points (Category 5): 35,000 points per night standard; 30,000 off-peak; 40,000 peak.  If you have 35K free night certificates they would work here when the resort isn’t peak priced.  Alternatively, you can take advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards when booking with points.

Via Frequent Miler Insiders, one group member wrote: “Hotel Paracas is amazing. They have a free boat that takes you to the islands (they call them the mini Galapagos) and you get your own cottage. Great food too.”

Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa:

This hotel is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points (Category 6): 50,000 points per night standard; 40,000 off-peak; 60,000 peak.  If you have 50K free night certificates they would work here when the resort isn’t peak priced.  Alternatively, you can take advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards when booking with points.

This resort looks like it would be an amazing place to stay on it’s own, but even better as part of a trip to Machu Picchu: The hotel has a private train station for visiting Machu Picchu!

Lisbon, Portugal (Penha Longa Resort)

Penha Longa Resort is a Ritz-Carlton property in Sintra Portugal.  This hotel is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points (Category 5): 35,000 points per night standard; 30,000 off-peak; 40,000 peak.  If you have 35K free night certificates they would work here when the resort isn’t peak priced.  Alternatively, you can take advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards when booking with points.

A reader who visited this one wasn’t super impressed.  They said that it was nice but the food was overpriced and the service wasn’t Ritz quality.  Still, it might be fun to try out this resort for a night or two as part of a bigger visit to Lisbon.

Florence, Italy (St. Regis)

I love Florence, and I have no doubt that a stay at the St. Regis would be amazing.  That said, it’s expensive — even with points.  This hotel is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points (Category 8): 85,000 points per night standard; 70,000 off-peak; 100,000 peak.  If you have enough points you can take advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards.

Santorini, Greece (Canaves Oia Epitome & Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel)

Canaves Oia Epitome
Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel

Two hotels on the island of Santorini made the list.  Both are Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties that are bookable with Hyatt points.  In either case, you’ll have to pay 40,000 points per night.  If possible, I think it would be fun to try out both properties during the same stay on the island.

It’s really hard to find award availability at these hotels in the prime summer months so award availability here would likely drive the timing for the trip overall.

Istanbul, Turkey (St. Regis Istanbul)

This hotel is bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points (Category 6): 50,000 points per night standard; 40,000 off-peak; 60,000 peak.  If you have 50K free night certificates they would work here when the resort isn’t peak priced.  Alternatively, you can take advantage of Marriott’s Stay for 5, Pay for 4 awards when booking with points.

Maldives (Six Senses Laamu)

The Six Senses Laamu resort gets outstanding reviews and it would be awesome to give it a try now that it is bookable with IHG Rewards Club points.  Award nights usually cost 100K points per Night (but I’ve seen 75K per night at times). Those with the IHG Premier or IHG Traveler card get the 4th Night Free on award stays.  Those with the old IHG Select card get a 10% rebate on points awards.

The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi also made the “World’s Best” list, but I didn’t include it here because award availability at standard rates seems to be nearly impossible to find for more than 1 night at a time.  Still, if you can find award availability, that would be an awesome addition to this trip!

Singapore (The Fullerton Hotel)

This Preferred Hotels & Resorts hotel can be booked with 45,000 Choice Privileges points per night.  This looks like it would be an awesome place to base a stay in Singapore.

Bali, Indonesia (Alila Manggis)

This Alila brand hotel costs only 8,000 Hyatt points per night!  If you have a lot of time and a lot of Hyatt points (or Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can transfer to Hyatt) then you could book a nice long stay here for relatively few points.

The missing pieces…

In order to put together a route that would work well with ANA’s Round the World rules, I left out a couple stops that would otherwise offer excellent point value for a “World’s Best” hotel:

With the above two options, I couldn’t find an elegant way to shoehorn them into the trip within the rules of ANA’s Round the World awards, but it probably could be done by tacking on separate awards.

A Possible Route

The above map, courtesy of Great Circle Mapper, shows the stopovers for this trip. Flight layovers are not shown in this image.
The above map, courtesy of Great Circle Mapper, shows the actual proposed route with layovers included.

To simplify planning, I made the assumption that the trip would start and end in Chicago.  And I used FlightConnections to identify routes that are served by Star Alliance airlines.  I didn’t try to determine whether award space would actually be available on the flights.

Here’s a possible route:

  • Chicago to Lima via Panama City (Copa Airlines)
  • Lima to Lisbon via Newark (United Airlines)
  • Lisbon to Florence nonstop (TAP Portugal)
  • Florence to Santorini via Vienna (Austrian Airlines)
  • Santorini to Istanbul via Athens (Aegean Airlines)
  • Istanbul to Male, Maldives nonstop (Turkish Airlines)
  • Male to Singapore nonstop (Singapore Airlines)
  • Singapore to Bali nonstop (Singapore Airlines)
  • Bali to Chicago via Taipei (EVA Air)

The route listed above has 7 stopovers and 14 segments.  That won’t work because ANA Round the World awards allow a maximum of 12 segments.  Another problem is relying on Singapore Airlines flights.  Singapore rarely opens business class award space to partners and so we would have to fly these segments in economy class (shudder!).

A solution to both of the above problems is to book the Singapore legs with Singapore miles.  Singapore allows adding adding a stopover to a one-way award for $100.  So, my proposal is to book a Singapore Airlines business class award from the Maldives to Bali for 65,000 39,000 miles one way per person, and add a stop-over in Singapore for $100 per person.

By separating out the Singapore Airlines flights, the ANA Round the World award drops down to 12 segments and therefore should be bookable.  Additionally, by cutting out the Singapore sections, the distance flown drops from 30,442 miles to 27,292 miles.  This reduces the Round the World (RTW) cost from 200,000 ANA miles per person to 170,000 per person.

Here are the mileage costs, per person:

  • ANA RTW Award: 170,000 ANA miles + taxes & fees
  • Singapore Airlines flights: 39,000 miles + $100 + taxes & fees (Note: I originally posted this cost as 65,000 miles but I had read that from the standard/Advantage award chart rather than the Saver award chart.  Thanks go to Laura for the correction!)

I’m certain that you can reduce costs quite a bit by booking the flights to Peru separately, but I did want to show a single Round the World route that hit most of the “World’s Best” points bookable hotels.

Total Points Cost

There would be many, many expenses with a trip like the one proposed above.  When booking award flights, you’ll still have to pay taxes and fuel surcharges.  When booking hotels, you’ll still sometimes have to pay resort fees.  And in some cases (such as in the Maldives) you’ll have to pay for airport transfers.  And then there’s food and excursions.  But, if you’re willing to set all of that aside and accept that the dollar cost is an unknown, we can at least project the point cost for a trip like the one proposed above.  With Marriott bookings, I assume that you book at standard award rates rather than peak or off-peak…

  • ANA RTW Award: 340,000 ANA miles (assuming 2 adults)
  • Singapore Airlines flights: 78,000 Singapore miles (assuming 2 adults)
  • Hotel Paracas, Peru: 5 nights for 140,000 Marriott points
  • Tambo del Inka, Peru: 5 nights for 200,000 Marriott points
  • Penha Longa Resort, Portugal: 2 nights for 70,000 Marriott points
  • St. Regis, Florence: 2 nights for 170,000 Marriott points
  • Canaves Oia Epitome, Santorini: 3 nights for 120,000 Hyatt points
  • Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel: 3 nights for 120,000 Hyatt points
  • St. Regis Istanbul: 5 nights for 200,000 Marriott points
  • Six Senses Laamu, Maldives: 4 nights for 300,000 IHG points (assumes that you have the IHG Premier or IHG Traveler card to get 4th night free)
  • The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore: 2 nights for 90,000 Choice Privileges points
  • Alila Manggis, Bali: 6 nights for 48,000 Hyatt points

Subtotals

  • ANA Miles: 340,000
  • Singapore Miles: 78,000
  • Marriott Points: 780,000
  • Hyatt Points: 288,000
  • IHG Points: 300,000
  • Choice Privileges Points: 90,000

Total Points Across Programs: 1,876,000

OK, so nearly 2 million points sounds like an insane number, but a couple working together could make this happen…

Getting the Points (and Free Nights)

Here’s how a couple could theoretically get enough points for the trip described above.  For expediency, I’ll refer to the individuals as Player 1 and Player 2.  Note that this scenario requires that Players 1 and 2 are eligible to sign up for business cards.

Applying for Business Credit Cards: You must have a business to apply, but even a simple sole proprietorship will work. It's likely that you have a business even if you don't realize it.
More:You must have a business (but you probably do): In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.

340K ANA Miles

Player 1 would sign up for the Amex Platinum Resy offer: 125K points after $6K in purchases in the first 6 months plus 15x at restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the US on up to $25K in combined purchases in the first 6 months.  After $10,000 in small business and dining purchases, Player 1 would earn both the 125K welcome bonus and 15 points per dollar on those purchase: $10k x 15 points per dollar = 150,000.  Player 1’s Membership Rewards total = 275K.

Player 1 would also sign up for the Amex Gold card.  The current public offer is 60K after $4K spend in first 6 months plus 20% back as a statement credit on restaurant purchases worldwide for the first 12 months up to $250 back.  After spending $5K on the card, Player 1 would have at least 65K more points.

Player 1 Membership Rewards points total: 275K + 65K = 340K.  Those points can transfer 1 to 1 to ANA.

78K Singapore Miles

Players 2 (or 1) would sign up for the Citi Premier card.  The current offer is 80K after $4K spend in 3 months.  Citi ThankYou points transfer 1 to 1 to Singapore (among other airlines).

780K Marriott Points (for multiple hotels)

The 780K number assumes that all nights are booked with points, but some could be booked with free night certificates instead…

Player 1 and 2 each sign up for the Amex Bonvoy Business card.  The current offer is 125K points + two free night certificates each valid for one night up to 50K points after $5K of eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership.  After completing minimum spend on each card, the couple would have a total of 270K points + four 50K free night certificates.

Player 1 and 2 each sign up for the Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card.  The current offer is 150K points + free night certificate good for one night up to 85K points after $5K in the first 3 months.  After completing minimum spend on each card, the couple would have 320K more points plus two 85K free night certificates.

The couple now has 590,000 points + four 50K free nights + two 85K free nights.  They could use those as follows:

  • Hotel Paracas, Peru: 5 nights for 140,000 Marriott points
  • Tambo del Inka, Peru: 5 nights for 200,000 Marriott points 4 nights booked with 50K free night certificates.
  • Penha Longa Resort, Portugal: 2 nights for 70,000 Marriott points
  • St. Regis, Florence: 2 nights for 170,000 Marriott points 2 nights booked with 85K free night certificates.
  • St. Regis Istanbul: 5 nights for 200,000 Marriott points
  • Total points used: 410,000 (the couple would have 180,000 points left over!)

288K Hyatt Points (for multiple hotels)

  • Canaves Oia Epitome, Santorini: 3 nights for 120,000 Hyatt points
  • Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel: 3 nights for 120,000 Hyatt points
  • Alila Manggis, Bali: 6 nights for 48,000 Hyatt points

Player 1 and 2 would each sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  The current offer is 100K Ultimate Rewards points after $4K spend in 3 months.  After meeting the spend requirements, the couple would have 208K points transferable to Hyatt 1 to 1.

Player 1 or 2 (either one) would then sign up for the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card (or the Ink Cash card if they prefer).  The current offer for either card is 75K Ultimate Rewards points after $7.5K spend in 3 months.  Since the Unlimited card earns 1.5x everywhere, the person signing up would have 86,250 points after meeting the spend requirements.

Chase allows freely moving Ultimate Rewards points from one person to another in the same household for free.  So, move all of the points to Player 1’s Sapphire Preferred account (or Player 2’s — it doesn’t matter) and then transfer 288K of those points to Hyatt.  About 14K Ultimate Rewards points would still be available.

300K IHG Points (Six Senses Laamu, Maldives)

Player 2 would sign up for the IHG Premier card.  The current offer is 150K after $3K in the first 3 months.  Plus, this card offers 4th Night Free award stays.  We need all of the IHG points in a single account in order to book the Six Senses property for four nights with the fourth night free.  So Player 2 should then buy 150,000 IHG points when they are on sale for half a cent each (which happens often).  That would cost $750 but it would secure 2 of the 4 nights at this resort which usually charges over $1600 per night.

90K Choice Privileges Points (The Fullerton Hotel Singapore)

Best bet would be to wait for Choice to increase their current offer for the Choice Privileges card.  The current offer is 32K points after $1K spend in first 90 days.  Recently, though, we saw an offer for 75K points after $2K total spend plus 4x everywhere earnings.  If an offer like that returns, then Player 1 and 2 could each sign up and each would have close to enough points for 2 nights in Singapore for a total of 4 nights.  If they went with the current offer, though, they would each earn 34K points after meeting the spend requirements (the card earns 2x everywhere).  They could then buy the needed 11K Choice points for 0.8 cents per point using the trick of booking a Choice points + cash stay and then cancelling it.  If they could work out how to buy exactly 11K points that way (I’m not sure it’s possible, but maybe), then that would cost $88 each.  Then, finally they could each book 1 night at the The Fullerton Hotel Singapore.

Honestly, I’m not at all sure that this one is worth the effort.  Remember that the couple has 180,000 Marriott points left over.  I bet that they could find an awesome Marriott in Singapore instead.

Wrap Up

I had fun putting together the plan described above (despite getting to only 10 out of the 12 hotels), but I don’t seriously expect anyone to actually do it.  It would take an immense amount of planning to pull it off.  And you would need to have a huge amount of time free to travel the world.  And, despite paying for flights and lodging with points, the trip would still be very expensive.  You would have to pay annual fees for the credit cards suggested above and charge huge amounts to those cards to meet minimum spend requirements.  Plus, you would have many trip expenses such as taxes and fees on airfare, resort fees, airport transfers, food, excursions, etc.  And what about all the other places that you would want to see while in South America, Europe, and Asia?  On the other hand, if you have the time and the money, I’m sure it would be a trip of a lifetime, and by using points you would easily save tens of thousands of dollars.

What do you think of this round the world adventure?  Would you do it if you had the time and money?  Please comment below!

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