Booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW turned out to be tough, but not in the way I thought it would be!

First, I decided to redeem my Aeroplan mini-RTW during the last two weeks of December and returning on the first week of January. This was a horrible decision because most of the flights back home to Vancouver are blacked out,

To make matters worst, using other frequent flyer programs offer the exact same issues. Most of the dates during the last week of December and the first week in January is completely unavailable for redemption.

What can do you in this scenario when you’re absolutely stuck?

(Read this article first on booking an Aeroplan mini-RTW if you have no idea what I’m talking about. I cover the benefits and rules on utilizing this amazing perk that Aeroplan provides you.)

Booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW during the Christmas and New Years week

I know what you’re going to say. Why don’t you just travel outside of the Christmas week to make it easier to find availability? In the ideal world, that’s exactly what I would do. However, my girlfriend was only given the Christmas week for her vacation days. So unfortunately, we had to work with the dates we had available.

I know for a lot of working professionals out there, such as teachers for example, they can only get time off during Christmas and the summer holiday. In that case, you need to have a plan for redeeming your miles when availability has a huge black out period.

What’s my Aeroplan mini-RTW itinerary like?

Because I’m travelling with Karen (my girlfriend) and my two sisters, they didn’t have enough Aeroplan miles to book on business class (my sisters and Karen barely had 100,000 Aeroplan miles to redeem). As a result, I ended up booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW on economy.

Our goal is to travel to Madagascar for a week, then head over to Manila for five days to spend Christmas with my relatives (I’m Chinese born in the Philippines). From there, we would head back home while attempting to do the United Island Hop (thanks to Prince of Travel for the inspiration).

I’m a country collector so as long as I get to go to a new country, I’m happy. For Karen, she wanted to see the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar. My sisters are travelling longer than Karen and myself. Their Aeroplan mini-RTW booking includes a stopover in South Africa and will be joining us in Madagascar soon after.

Our itinerary ended up looking like this (my stopovers are in bold):

YVR-LAS-IAD-ADD-TNR-ADD-BKK-MNL-GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL-YVR

While my sister’s itinerary looked like this:

YVR-YOW-IAD-JNB-ADD-TNR-ADD-BKK-MNL-TPE-PEK-YVR

My goal when booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW

For many people, the purpose of booking an Aeroplan mini-RTW to maximize the value of flying in business class. I totally get that.

However, my number one priority at the moment is to maximize the amount of countries I visit whenever I book an Aeroplan mini-RTW. Some people value the dollar value attached to their bookings. I value the experience and collecting countries. So with the time I have available, my goal is to visit as many remote countries as possible using stopovers and layovers that Aeroplan provides you.

In the future, whenever I’m flying solo or with individuals with more Aeroplan miles, I will definitely book on business class.

How I booked my first Aeroplan mini-RTW for my upcoming vacation

Booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW from the starting point to the furthest point

Madagascar is one of the furthest point from Vancouver giving me a Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) of 16,425. After speaking with an Aeroplan agent, my return flight’s MPM is 16,515.

My first goal was to see what a one way flight would look like from Vancouver to Antananarivo, Madagascar:

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

 

Because of time constraints, I decided to just go with this route that I found on the Aeroplan website. If I had more time to travel, I would have definitely tried some layovers in other countries within the African region. Looking at GCmaps, you can see that I’ve only used 12,249 miles from the starting point (YVR) all the way to the point of return/furthest distance from my starting point (TNR). Because I have 16,425 MPM from the starting point to the furthest distance, I still have 4,176 miles left had I wanted to have an under 24 hour layover in other African countries.

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

 

Booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW from the furthest point/point of return to starting point

The next part is more tricky. My goal is to go to Manila to visit relatives then do the United Island Hopper on the way back home to Vancouver.

At first, it was difficult to find a way to reach Asia and still do the United Island Hopper because most of the flights leaving Addis Ababa going to Asia would stop at Hong Kong and that would exceed whatever MPM I have available. I had to find another way.

After doing some research, turns out less miles will be spent by connecting through Bangkok instead of Hong Kong. There’s also some hidden miles spent when it comes to booking the United Island Hopper. First, it’s not just GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL if I wanted to fly out of Manila. It’s actually MNL-ROR-GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL.

Had I not checked with the Aeroplan agent, I would think this routing would not work because my MPM when I checked the Aeroplan website is just 16,425.

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

However, after speaking with an Aeroplan agent, I was told that I actually have 16,515 mpm from the point of return/furthest point to the starting point. This is perfect because my booking is still valid as a result (16,515 – 16,489 = 26 miles)!

Since I now know this route works, it’s time to find availability. I ended up booking the following routing on the way back home to Vancouver:

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

 

As you can see, all went well except for the flight back home. Because it’s the holiday season, tons of flights back from Honolulu are completed blacked out. (If you’re also wondering where KSA-KWA-MAJ went, it’s because booking from PNI to HNL already includes those layovers as part of the United Island Hopper)

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

 

To make matters worst, I needed to be back in Vancouver by Wednesday, January 1 because my girlfriend has to be back at work by January 2nd.

What we ended up doing to compensate for the lack of availability

We ended up booking a flight from HNL to YVR on Monday, February 11, 2019 because it’s the Family Day long weekend and we can fly to Hawaii for a three day getaway then. To get there, we’ll just use some British Airways Avios or Aeroplan miles.

But how do we get back home?

We ended up using Alaska miles’ companion fare voucher. It wasn’t the best idea but it’s cheaper than paying two full fares to fly back home.

 

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

The cost of the Aeroplan booking for myself ended up being $362.71 including the Aeroplan booking fee over the phone. I wonder if it could have been cheaper if the flight from HNL to YVR wasn’t on Air Canada? When my sisters booked their own Aeroplan mini-RTW, their itinerary did not have any Air Canada or airline carriers that charged a hefty carrier fee and she still paid in the $300 range. I believe it did cost me more but was partially reduced because part of the airline crossing the Pacific Ocean was on United Airlines.

After splitting the cost in half with Karen for the Alaska flight from HNL to YVR, we ended up paying $441.74 each. This is ridiculous because it actually cost us more money to fly from HNL to YVR than booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW redemption.

Reducing the cost of booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW even more

The total cost of booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW and paying for half the Alaska companion fare voucher ended up being $804.45 – which is a lot of money. It’s still cheaper than paying for this entire itinerary without using my Aeroplan miles and Alaska companion fare voucher. (It would have costed me $5190.41 according to Expedia). So it’s still a savings of $4,385.96.

But still, I don’t like paying $804.45 for my flights. So I ended up using my stash of AMEX Cobalt points to cover the rest of the cost. If you didn’t know, 1000 AMEX Cobalt points is equivalent to $10. I ended up redeeming my AMEX Cobalt points to pay off the $804.45.

Now, these AMEX Cobalt points weren’t free and it actually cost me $286.77 (including the AMEX Cobalt Card’s monthly fee) to earn the 80,400 AMEX Cobalt points that I used to pay off the $804.45.

You can earn tons of AMEX Cobalt points by simply hitting their $500 minimum spend requirements every month which earns you a bonus 2500 AMEX Cobalt points. AMEX Cobalt typically has a 30,000 sign up bonus so it’s not too difficult to earn lots of miles during the entire year and you can reapply for the card later on to get the welcome bonus points again. You can also earn 5 points for every dollar spent at grocery stores or restaurants so if you spend $500 a month on food and groceries, that’s an easy 5000 AMEX Cobalt points per month.

Total cost of booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW itinerary after using AMEX Cobalt points

In the end, I was able to reduce the cost of this entire itinerary from $804.45 to $286.77.

Complete itinerary details

booking my first aeroplan mini-rtw

After booking this Aeroplan mini-RTW itinerary, Aeroplan contacted me and made some changes to the times that I originally booked online. Below is the final version of the itinerary including the recent changes.

Starting point to point of return/furthest point

December 14 – Vancouver to Las Vegas – 19:20-22:01 – Air Canada

December 14-15 – Las Vegas to Washington Dulles – 23:35-06:51 – United Airlines

I wish we had more time in this layover to explore Washington DC.

December 15-16 – Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa – 10:00-07:15 – Ethiopian Airlines

December 16 – Addis Ababa to Antananarivo – 08:50-13:40 – Ethiopian Airlines

We’re spending one week in Madagascar and doing a tour to see the Avenue of the Baobabs and surrounding areas. We went with a company called Mada Safari tour. We negotiated the cost of the tour down to 415 Euros for a one week tour of the country. Going to Madagascar also checks off another country in my quest to visit all 193 UN recognized countries.

Point of return to second stopover

December 22 – Antananarivo to Addis Ababa – 14:30-19:20 – Ethiopian Airlines

December 22-23 – Addis Ababa to Bangkok – 23:55-13:15 – Ethiopian Airlines

It’s too bad we didn’t have a longer layover in Bangkok, it would have been fun to eat the local street food.

December 23 – Bangkok, Thailand to Manila – 14:50-19:00 – Thai Airways

We’re staying in Manila for five days to visit relatives, celebrate Christmas, and do some dental cleaning because it’s significantly cheaper to get them done in Philippines than in Canada.

Second stopover to the third stopover

December 28 – Manila to Guam – 22:30-06:20 – United Airlines

We have a 13 hour and 30 minute layover here. We’ll definitely leave the airport to explore the nearby city and to check out the UnderWater World.

December 29 – Guam to Chuuk (TKK), Micronesia – 19:50-21:40 – United Airlines

Since we have 14 hours and 20 minute layover here, we’re going to leave the airport and stay at a hotel nearby. In the morning we’ll try some of the local food in the area and take some pictures before boarding the plane to the next destination. This also checks off another country in my quest to collect all 193 UN recognized countries.

December 30 – Chuuk (TKK) to Pohnpei, Micronesia – 11:00-13:22 – United Airlines

Because we have an awesome 24 hours and 22 minutes layover in Pohnpei (Aeroplan made these changes after we booked the flight – it was originally under 24 hours), we’re going to leave the airport and stay in a local hotel. We’re also going to join a tour and either hike to the ancient city ruins of Nan Madol or take a boat there.

December 31 – Pohnpei to Kosrae, Micronesia – 13:44-14:52 – United Airlines

December 31 – Kosrae to Kwajalein, Marshall Islands – 15:27-17:40 – United Airlines

Kwajalein is a US miliary base and disembarking or taking photos is forbidden.

December 31 – Kwajalein to Majuro – 18:19-19:17 – United Airlines

Apparently, we’re allowed to disembark the airplane to take some pictures and get a passport stamp to Marshall Islands. This is awesome because that’s another country completed in my quest to visit all 193 UN recognized countries.

December 31 – Majuro to Honolulu – 20:10-02:50 – United Airlines

We’re staying here for 20 hours and 35 minutes before our Alaska Flight back home. We’ll have time to sleep overnight then check out Waikiki Beach to end our vacation.

Third stopover to back home in Vancouver

The final segment of my first Aeroplan mini-RTW booking is suppose to be this:

February 11-12 – Honolulu to Vancouver – 23:25-07:10 – Air Canada

As much as I’d like to stay in Honolulu for an additional 42 days, Karen and myself have to go back to work. We will be using this final segment later on when we fly to Honolulu during the Family Day long weekend in BC so it’s not going to waste. We’ll end up redeeming my British Airways Avios or Aeroplan miles to fly there and use the final segment to fly back home.

Therefore, our final two segments will look like this:

December 31-January 1 – Honolulu to Seattle – 11:25pm-7:18am – Alaska Airlines

January 1 – Seattle to Vancouver – 9:30am-10:30am – Alaska Airlines

Conclusion to booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW

As you can see, booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW has been a really tough process. It’s even worst when you book it during the final week in December and first week of January.

Some things to keep in mind when you book your first Aeroplan mini-RTW is to do your best to avoid booking during the Christmas holiday season. Otherwise, you’ll be left with little to no availability for flights coming back home to Canada. Booking my first Aeroplan mini-RTW would have definitely been a lot easier and cheaper if I didn’t book during the holiday season.

Should you get stuck with no flight availability to fly back home, try using other frequent flyer program alliance like One World or SkyTeam. If that doesn’t work, you can always use your Cobalt AMEX points to pay your balance if you decide to book a regular one way flight.

The value of booking an Aeroplan mini-RTW is immense. You’ll be able to visit many countries and cities thus maximizing the value of your miles. (I only spent 100,000 Aeroplan miles and I got to visit 4 countries). To make your redemption even more worthwhile and relaxing, book your Aeroplan miles on Business class.

My next Aeroplan mini-RTW redemption will definitely be on Business Class so I can see the difference in comfort while ticking off many destinations on my bucket list.

Have you booked an Aeroplan mini-RTW before? If not, what’s preventing you from using Aeroplan’s best redemption method?

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