The Aeroplan Mini-RTW: A Complete Guide [2019]

The Aeroplan Mini-RTW

Complete Guide [2019]

Creative Trip Planning
Long Layovers
View all: Miles & Points

The Aeroplan Mini-Round-the-World trip, or Aeroplan Mini-RTW for short, is by far the best way to redeem your Aeroplan miles for some amazing trips around the world. In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to take advantage of this incredible sweet spot and book an Aeroplan Mini-RTW trip for yourself. 


The Basic Idea 

Every frequent flyer program has a certain set of rules on how you’re allowed to put together different flights on the same ticket when you redeem your miles.

For example, some programs might only allow you to book the most direct routing possible from Point A to Point B, while other programs might let you fly to an intermediate Point C first, stay there for a few days, and then continue your journey. 

Aeroplan, one of Canada’s most popular loyalty programs, happens to have very generous policies in this regard. By leveraging these policies, you can visit up to three destinations for the price of one, piece together your itinerary using a mix of Star Alliance airlines, and enjoy a good handful of 24-hour layovers in other places along the way. 

 
 

The name “Mini-Round-the-World” refers specifically to this type of mileage redemption, which purposefully maximizes Aeroplan’s stopover and routing policies to create epic trips that you’d never dream of taking if you were simply paying cash for your flights the traditional way. 


Definitions and Rules

Let's set the stage with some key definitions:

  1. Origin: The city from which your itinerary begins

  2. Destination: The city, among those in which you stop for more than 24 hours, that’s farthest away from your origin

  3. Stopover: A stop in a city (other than your destination) for more than 24 hours

  4. Layover: A stop in a city (other than your destination) for less than 24 hours

  5. Open-jaw: A break in your itinerary where you make your own way between two cities

Great Circle Mapper is a magnificent tool to measure distances between cities, which is key to determining which city counts as your "destination" based on the definitions above. 

We’ll draw upon the “classic” type of Aeroplan Mini-RTW, which is a round-the-world trip to a few places in Europe and Asia, to illustrate this concept. Let’s imagine that a traveller based in Vancouver (YVR) wanted to fly around the world and spend some meaningful amount of time in Paris (CDG), Hong Kong (HKG), and Singapore (SIN), all in one trip. 

To find out which city counts as the destination, this traveller would enter the following into GCMap:

YVR-CDG; YVR-HKG; YVR-SIN

 
 

As you can see, Singapore is the farthest away from Vancouver out of our three chosen cities. Therefore, looking at the key definitions, we’ll note down the following:

  • Origin: Vancouver

  • Destination: Singapore

  • Stopovers: Paris, Hong Kong

Now, let's move on to the actual rules that underpin the Aeroplan Mini-RTW:

  1. Look up the Aeroplan Reward Chart to see how many miles you’ll need. You are charged the highest number of miles among any of your three stops of more than 24 hours.

  2. On intercontinental round-trip itineraries, you are allowed either two stopovers or one stopover and one open-jaw.

  3. In practice, you are allowed unlimited layovers. However, due to the technical limitations, your overall ticket can only have up to 16 flight segments, which limits the amount of layovers you can have.

  4. You can route through the same city twice only if the two visits are on either "side" of the destination (i.e., one before and one after).

  5. Your itinerary must fall under the "maximum permitted mileage" (MPM) between your origin and destination, in both directions.

Each of these rules bears further clarification, so let’s go through them one-by-one.


Rule 1: How Many Miles You Need

You’ll need to consult the Aeroplan Reward Chart to figure out how many Aeroplan miles you’ll be charged for your MIni-RTW redemption. The mileage amount will depend on two factors:

  • Which three places you choose to stop for longer than 24 hours

  • The class of service 

Among your three chosen stops of longer than 24 hours, the place with the highest mileage cost from your origin is the amount that you’ll be charged. In our sample trip from Vancouver to Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore, Singapore falls under “Asia 2” on the Aeroplan Reward Chart, which charges higher mileage amounts than both Europe 1 (Paris) and Asia 1 (Hong Kong). Thus, our traveller would be charged based on the mileage cost between North America and Asia 2. 

(Note that the city with the highest mileage cost from the origin is most likely the same as the “destination” of the trip, as defined above, but it doesn’t always have to be.) 

The next step is to choose your class of service, which will determine exactly how many miles you’ll be charged. In our example of North America to Asia 2, our traveller would pay 90,000 miles in economy class, 130,000 miles in premium economy, 155,000 miles in business class, or 210,000 miles in First Class.

Note that you are charged the mileage amount for the highest class of service within your overall trip. This means that even if you’re flying economy in one direction and business the other, you’ll still be charged the full business class round-trip cost.

Therefore, if you’re booking an Aeroplan Mini-RTW in a premium cabin, the goal is always to try to secure as many flights as possible in your chosen class of service, since you don’t get anything in return if you end up in a lower class of service on some of your flights.


Rule 2: Stopovers & Open-Jaws

This rule is what makes the Aeroplan Mini-RTW the spectacular mileage redemption method that it is. Since you can have up to two stopovers on your itinerary, this means that you’re allowed to visit up to three cities around the world (two stopovers + one destination) for a fixed number of miles.

 
 

You’re only allowed to have stopovers on round-trip flights. One-way redemptions of any kind are not eligible for stopovers.

Furthermore, only on intercontinental itineraries are you allowed to designate two stopovers; for redemptions that are wholly within North America, you’re only allowed to choose one stopover in addition to your destination.

You can arrange your stopovers and destination in any order – both stopovers before the destination, both after, or one before and one after. This gives you a huge amount of flexibility in terms of planning your trip, since you aren’t locked into visiting your chosen places in any particular order.

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We should also talk about open-jaws, which is a term that refers to a break in your itinerary that allows you to travel between two cities on your own. You are allowed to substitute one of your stopovers for an open-jaw.

(Note that the open-jaw must be “adjacent” to either the origin or the destination of your trip.)

Going back to our example, our traveller could decide that she doesn’t need to fly between Singapore and Hong Kong, and would instead like to make her own way through South East Asia instead using low-cost flights on budget airlines. Thanks to the open-jaw rules, she’s well within her rights to book her trip this way:

I’ll say it again to drive home the point. The ability to add either two stopovers or one stopover and one open-jaw to your trip is what makes the Aeroplan Mini-RTW an incredible redemption opportunity that stands head-and-shoulders above its peers. 

Want to visit Europe and Africa on your way to Australia? You can do it. Want to hop down to Colombia before spending a few weeks backpacking through South East Asia? You can do it.

Very few other frequent flyer programs will allow you to build trips like these. Aeroplan Mini-RTWs can be customized to your heart’s content, depending on which places around the world interest you the most (and subject to a few routing constraints, as we’ll discuss further below). That’s what makes them so powerful.


Rule 3: Long Layovers

The fun doesn’t stop there. Beyond your destination, stopover(s), and possibly an open-jaw, you can also build additional layovers into your trip, which are stops of 24 hours or less in duration. 

24 hours won’t give you too much time to explore a city. However, it’s definitely enough to either get a small taste of a place you’ve never been before and decide whether you’d like to return for a more comprehensive visit, or to return to some place you’ve already visited where you really enjoy spending time.

Long layovers add yet another dimension to your trip, and taking advantage of this opportunity really takes the “globetrotting” factor of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW to the next level.

If you recognize the value in long layovers and would like to maximize them, the next question you’re asking might be: is there any limit to how many long layovers you can have on a single Mini-RTW redemption?

Yes, there is: a single electronic airline ticket can only handle up to 16 flight segments. Therefore, assuming you’re already maximizing your stopovers, you can build into a single Mini-RTW ticket a maximum of 13 long layovers. 


Rule 4: Routing Through the Same City Twice

This rule relates to whether or not you can fly through the same city more than once on the same trip, whether that city is a stopover, long layover, or just a short connection point between two flights.

The rule is pretty simple to understand: you can only route through the same city twice if the two visits are on two different “sides” of the destination of your trip (with “destination” being defined as above). One of the visits must take place on your way from the origin to the destination, while the other must take place on the way back.

Otherwise, you aren’t allowed to route through the same place twice – once you’ve flown in and out of a city, you can’t “touch” it again. 


Rule 5: Maximum Permitted Mileage

The purpose of the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) rule is to limit the total mileage you can fly between origin and destination. It's to prevent people from booking outrageous routings, such as flying from North America to Europe… with a connection in Australia.

The rule itself is quite simple: there is a certain MPM figure for each Origin–Destination pair, and the routing you choose between the origin and destination (in each direction) is not allowed to exceed this value in distance.

To put it formally, let’s say the MPM between two airports, XXX and YYY, is Z miles. This means that:

  • You can’t fly more than Z miles on your way from XXX to YYY; and

  • You can’t fly more than Z miles on your way from YYY back to XXX

Aeroplan calculates the MPM between two cities using a proprietary formula which isn’t widely published, so you'll have to do a little bit of handiwork to find the MPM for your desired city pair. 

Why does the MPM rule matter? Well, we know that the Mini-RTW lets you visit three cities for the price of one, but because of the MPM rule, not all combinations of origins, stopovers, and destinations may be possible. This is because the MPM between your origin and the farthest-away of your three desired cities (i.e., your destination) might be too low to allow routing through one or both of the two stopover cities. 

Drawing upon the example we’ve been working with:

  • A trip from Vancouver to Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore is valid.

    • Singapore is the destination, since it’s the farthest away

    • The MPM between Vancouver and Singapore is 13,206 miles, which is large enough to allow routing through both Paris and Hong Kong.

  • However, a trip from Vancouver to Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo is not valid.

    • Hong Kong is the destination, since it’s the farthest away

    • The MPM between Vancouver and Hong Kong is 8,986 miles, which is not large enough to allow routing through Paris. Don’t believe me? Plot it out on GCMap and see for yourself!

 
 

That’s the MPM rule in a nutshell. There’s far more to talk about here – for example, one way of maximizing your Aeroplan Mini-RTW to the very extreme is by choosing a destination that’s as far on the other side of the world as possible, thus granting you an extremely high MPM allowance to play with. 

From Vancouver, Johannesburg and Mauritius are popular far-flung destinations that give you a huge MPM to work with. From Toronto or Montreal, Perth is the natural choice. And so on and so forth. 


The Booking Process

Now that we’ve established the specific rules that govern the Aeroplan Mini-RTW, let’s move onto the actual process of booking one for yourself. Booking a trip like this can seem like an insanely complex undertaking from the outset. But then again, nothing worthwhile comes easy in life, does it? 

To be honest, each of these steps can be discussed in separate blog posts of their own, so I’ll be keeping things brief and referring you to other articles that I’ve written over the years. In particular, head over to my article on “How to Book an Aeroplan Mini-RTW” for an in-depth breakdown of the process.


Step 1: Planning Your Route

The first step is to piece together a series of flights on Star Alliance airlines that satisfy Rules 1 through 5 above. Use a tool like FlightConnections to figure out which Star Alliance airlines can be used to get you from one place to another, whether it’s with a direct flight or with a connection or two somewhere.

For example, from Vancouver to Paris, you could take:

  • a direct flight with Air Canada, YVR–CDG

  • a one-stop routing with United Airlines via Newark or Chicago

  • a two-stop routing in which you fly Air Canada to Montreal, then Swiss to Zurich, and finally another flight on Swiss to Paris

There are numerous possibilities for every journey you make from Point A to Point B, and the best way to get better at building Star Alliance itineraries is to try it yourself and spend time gaining familiarity with the process.

One important factor to consider when crafting your routing is the fuel surcharges that many airlines levy on Aeroplan awards.

In general, you’ll want to avoid Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines on long-haul flights, since they can often come with $500+ in fuel surcharges:

 
 

A few other airlines, like Air China or LOT Polish Airlines, carry more reasonable surcharges of about $100–150, which you might wish to avoid as well:

The vast majority of Star Alliance airlines levy no fuel surcharges, so if you stick to those airlines, you’ll only need to pay the government-imposed taxes and aviation fees associated with your booking at the end of the process:

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As a result of fuel surcharges, it often makes sense to avoid direct flights with high surcharges (like the Vancouver–Paris flight on Air Canada) and instead take a connection with no surcharges (like the one-stop routings with United). And there’s your opportunity to build a long layover in your connection point if you wish!

Several countries around the world have also imposed regulations on fuel surcharges, which can lower your out-of-pocket expense when travelling to or from these countries. 

Once you’ve planned out an overall routing that includes any desired stopovers, layovers, and open-jaws, it’s time to move on to the next step: verifying that these flights actually are available for mileage redemptions.


Step 2: Finding Award Availability

As you’re probably aware, just because a flight is available for purchase doesn’t mean it’ll be available for redeeming miles. You’ll need to search for award availability on every flight of your Mini-RTW to make sure it’s actually possible to book the whole thing.

To do this, take each segment that you’ve planned out in Step 1 and run it through the Aeroplan search engine. If the exact flight shows up as an available direct flight, this means it has available seats and can therefore be included on your Aeroplan Mini-RTW. 

(You can also use alternative search engines like United.com or ExpertFlyer, which may be more convenient. However, you should always double-check on the Aeroplan website as well, since the availability between these websites will match most of the time, but not always.)

In general, the further in advance you plan your trip, the more likely you’ll find award availability. Airlines do tend to release award space on a last-minute basis as well (about 1–2 weeks in advance), but not everyone has the flexibility to plan a trip on short notice like that.

Economy class will also be much easier to find than business class or First Class, especially if travelling as a group of more than two people. 

If one of the flights you’ve planned out doesn’t have any availability, then you can either wait and hope that the airline releases more space (at the risk of the space on other flights disappearing), or go back to Step 1 and plan out an alternative route. You might have to look into connecting in a different airport, taking a later flight in the day, or settling for a two-stop instead of one-stop routing from place to place – all while ensuring you still meet Rules 1 to 5 that we’ve laid out above.

The entire process of planning out a route and then searching for availability might seem intimidating at first. If you’d rather not put in the work and would prefer to pay an expert to build your trip for you, there are many services out there (such as my own Points Consulting service) that can get the job done as well.

 
 


Step 3: Call Aeroplan to book

After you’ve put in the hard work of piecing together a valid itinerary and checking it for availability, the last step is the easiest: you can’t book this type of trip on the Aeroplan website, so you have to ring up the call centre and book with an agent.

Simply start the call by saying something along the lines of “I’d like to book a complex trip around the world with multiple stops. I’ve already found the flights I want, can I give them to you?”

(Don’t call it a “Mini-RTW”, since it’s a term made up by the community, and the agents often don’t know what it means.)

This should be followed by a back-and-forth in which you feed the flights to the agent one-by-one, after which the agent will attempt to validate the itinerary in the system. 

If you’ve done everything right, the agent will confirm the itinerary and proceed to the booking phase, where you must pay $30 plus taxes per passenger for the privilege of booking over the phone. It’s an annoying fee to pay, but compared to the value you’re getting from the Aeroplan Mini-RTW, it’s surely worth it.

(If your itinerary falls afoul of one of the rules above, the agent will also let you know what’s causing the issue, and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board to jig things around before calling to book again.)

Aeroplan’s phone agents tend to be a mixed bag. Some are very helpful along the process, while others can’t be bothered and might even tell you that this kind of trip isn’t allowed. You can usually judge the agent’s attitude during the first few minutes of the call, so don’t be afraid to hang up and call again if you encounter a bad apple. 

If all goes well, you should end the call with a fully booked and confirmed itinerary landing in your inbox!


A Few Sample Trips

There’s no better way to illustrate the power of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW than by looking at a few examples. I’ll begin with a few trips I have personally booked, before moving on to a few theoretical ones. In each example, I’ll highlight and comment on some key features of the trip.


Example 1: Around the World in 16 Days (2017)

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  • Origin: Toronto

  • Destination: Hong Kong

  • Stopover: Warsaw

  • Open-jaw: Between Hong Kong and Shenyang

  • Long layovers: N/A

  • Connections: Brussels, Zurich, Taipei

  • Passengers: 2

  • Cost: 150,000 Aeroplan miles in business class + $150 in taxes and fees per person

The first Aeroplan Mini-RTW that I ever took. I flew Brussels Airlines business class to Europe, spent three days in Warsaw, then flew Swiss business class to Hong Kong. From there, I planned to travel through China at my own pace, so I simply planned an open-jaw between Hong Kong and Shenyang. From Shenyang, I resumed the journey to Taipei via Shenzhen Airlines, before flying the amazing EVA Air business class back to Toronto.

I booked this one about eight months in advance, with travel taking place in shoulder season, so award availability was relatively easy to find. However, I was also on a tight schedule (16 days for the whole trip!), so I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of any long layovers.


Example 2: A Latin American Expedition (2018)

  • Origin: Toronto

  • Destination: Buenos Aires

  • Stopovers: Foz do Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro

  • Long layovers: Panama City, Mexico City

  • Connections: São Paulo

  • Passengers: 2

  • Cost: 110,000 Aeroplan miles in business class + $200 in taxes and fees per person

While this isn’t a round-the-world trip, it applies the same principles to the South American continent. I flew Air Canada business class down to Buenos Aires. After five days in Argentina and a side-trip to Uruguay, I visited the stunning Iguazu Falls before another five days in Rio de Janeiro. A highly memorable trip.

I originally booked the long-haul Air Canada flight about 10 months in advance, before changing my trip about three months in advance to add in most of the stopovers and layovers. Award availability in South America is relatively easy to find. I also took advantage of long layovers to visit Panama and Mexico as well (although they got pretty tiring!) 


example 3: A Luxury Hotel World Tour (2018)

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  • Origin: Toronto

  • Destination: Bali

  • Stopover: Paris

  • Open-jaw: Between Singapore and Bali

  • Long layovers: Beijing

  • Connections: Lisbon, Istanbul, Hanoi, Singapore

  • Passengers: 2

  • Cost: 155,000 Aeroplan miles in business class + $300 in taxes and fees per person

I booked a trip for the winter holidays that would take us to some pretty glamorous destinations in Paris, Singapore, and Bali. The long-haul flights were on TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines, and Air China business class; the stopover was in Paris for New Year’s Eve, while an open-jaw between Singapore and Bali allowed me to slot in a side-trip to Langkawi on budget carriers. 

I planned this one very late: only about two months in advance. Since it was peak travel season, I was unable to find my “ideal” flights on my favourite airlines, and had to work much harder to locate business class availability of any kind. Taxes and fees were high, mainly due to the expensive departure fees when flying out of France.


example 4: The Crazy Aeroplan Trip (2019)

  • Origin: Newark

  • Destination: Perth

  • Stopovers: Accra, Beijing

  • Long layovers: Istanbul, Guam, Chuuk, Pohnpei

  • Connections: Abidjan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kosrae, Kwajalein, Majuro, Honolulu

  • Passengers: 1

  • Cost: 160,000 Aeroplan miles in business class + $450 in taxes and fees

This trip was designed to stretch the Aeroplan Mini-RTW to its most extreme limits. My routing to Perth included business class flights on Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Singapore Airlines, with a stopover in Accra, Ghana, in between. That would be followed by a stopover in Beijing to spend Chinese New Year, and then a convoluted return routing via the Federated States of Micronesia onboard the United Island Hopper.

I booked this seven months in advance, and had to spend a lot of time studying airline schedules to put it together (especially the Island Hopper, where some flights only operate once a week). With so many takeoffs and landings, it made sense that the airport fees added up to a considerable $450, but it was well worth it. 


example 5: all Six Continents

 
 
  • Origin: Vancouver

  • Destination: Johannesburg

  • Stopovers / Layovers / Connections: Toronto, Lisbon, São Paulo, Perth, Tokyo (pick and choose!)

  • Cost: 90,000 Aeroplan miles in economy class / 160,000 Aeroplan miles in business class

How about a theoretical example? And a particularly fun one at that? 

You can use an Aeroplan Mini-RTW to visit all six continents on the same ticket. The MPM between Vancouver and Johannesburg is a considerable 16,372 miles, which opens the door to routing in one direction via Lisbon and São Paulo (on TAP Air Portugal), and the other direction via Perth and Tokyo (on South African Airways and ANA). Choose two of those places (or nearby) to stop for longer than 24 hours, and enjoy a shorter layover on the other continents as you channel your inner Magellan. 90,000 miles in economy / 160,000 miles in business. 

A similar journey across six continents can also be made with Toronto or Montreal as the starting point. Go on, why not brush up on your skills and have a go at crafting such an itinerary? 


example 6: First Class Frenzy

  • Origin: Boston

  • Destination: Perth

  • Cost: 220,000 Aeroplan miles in First Class

This example draws upon the article I wrote on “What’s the Best Aeroplan First Class Redemption?” Feel free to check out that post for more details on the trip construction. 

Unlike business class flights, First Class is rather limited on Star Alliance carriers, allowing you to book a single trip that samples the full breadth of these world-class First Class products. 220,000 Aeroplan miles will get you a First Class ticket from North America to Oceania, and if you’re ambitious enough, you can fly the First Class offerings of ANA, Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and Lufthansa all at once. 

One thing’s for sure: this type of trip would certainly be more about the journey than the destination!


The Future of the Aeroplan Mini-RTW

The Aeroplan Mini-RTW is a spectacular way to redeem your miles, but we aren’t sure how long this opportunity will last. That’s because Air Canada will be taking over the program in June 2020, and might be making any number of changes that could impact the ability to book an Aeroplan Mini-RTW.

They could change up the stopover policies, reducing or otherwise restricting the ability to include two stopovers at no additional cost. They could tighten the routing rules and prevent you from piecing together your own itinerary, forcing you to accept the options that the search engine spits out. And who knows what kind of surprise they might pull with the Aeroplan Reward Chart itself? 

For now, we’ve received assurances that the current Aeroplan program will remain as is until June 2020. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this highly lucrative opportunity to redeem your miles for an unforgettable round-the-world trip, now is the time to take action! 


Conclusion

The Aeroplan Mini-RTW is arguably the highest-value mileage redemption opportunity in all the land, and is especially powerful for business class or First Class redemptions to far-flung destinations around the world. Booking a Mini-RTW for yourself is no easy feat, with a huge volume of information on stopovers, open-jaws, layovers, MPMs, and award availability for you to absorb; however, there are few better feelings in the pursuit of Miles & Points than enjoying the fruits of your labour on a truly epic and memorable Aeroplan Mini-RTW trip.