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The Aeroplan Mini-RTW: Creative Trip Planning Ricky May 2, 2017

The Aeroplan Mini-RTW: Creative Trip Planning

I hope Part 1 of this series on “Mini-Round-the-World” trips with Aeroplan has brought you fully up to speed on the basic definitions and rules about building a mini-RTW. You’ve got an origin and a destination, plus two stopovers, one of which can be substituted for an open-jaw, and you can’t go over the MPM. Simple!

In the second part of this series I want to get you started thinking in a different manner: now that we know the rules, how can we maximize the flying or travelling we get to do in our mini-RTW, while operating under these rules?

Now I wanted to acknowledge for a second that people have different styles and preferences when it comes to travel. Some care for the luxuries of business class, while others, for whom the destination might be more important than the journey, are content to tough it out in economy. Some love flying, others detest it; still others go out of their way to maximize their time in the air.

I don’t wish to prescribe any particular style of travel on any reader. Rather, I want to show you the possibilities that are open to you using Aeroplan miles, and share with you some of my own ideas for trips I’m keen to book. Now, without further ado…

The One-and-a-Half Trick

I’ve discussed Aeroplan’s stopover policy at length, and also mentioned that you can swap one of your two stopovers for an open-jaw. But those to whom I’m introducing the mini-RTW often ask me, “What if I can’t get enough time off to take advantage of stopovers and open-jaws? What good are they for me?”

Indeed, it can be disheartening to learn about all the cool things you can do with Aeroplan if you can’t book enough time off to properly visit more than one place. But not all is lost – you can still make the most out of the stopover and open-jaw policies by booking separate trips in one ticket.

Let me explain. Imagine you are based in Ottawa and you want to take two trips this year: one trip to somewhere in the US (call it New Orleans) and one trip overseas (call it Stockholm). Many people find themselves with similar travel goals: taking a smaller trip and then a larger trip within a certain period of time.

What you want to do is to make New Orleans the origin of your mini-RTW, make Ottawa your stopover, make your European destination the destination, and put the open-jaw between Ottawa and New Orleans on the return leg.

OUTBOUND

Aeroplan Mini-RTW Open-Jaw | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

RETURN

Aeroplan Mini-RTW Open-Jaw | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points
1. Air Canada / AC7724 / New Orleans to Toronto  / May 8  / 1305 1646
2. Air Canada / AC462  / Toronto to Ottawa       / May 8  / 1810 1910 (stopover)

3. Air Canada / AC8854 / Ottawa to Newark        / Jul 18 / 1025 1150
4. SAS        / SK904  / Newark to Stockholm     / Jul 18 / 1720 0715+1 (destination)

5. SAS        / SK903  / Stockholm to Newark     / Jul 24 / 1225 1455
6. United     / UA4459 / Newark to Ottawa        / Jul 24 / 2130 2302
-- open jaw --

The New Orleans to Ottawa part of the itinerary effectively acts as the return leg for your New Orleans trip. See how you get to use your “stopover” in Ottawa between May 8 and July 18, even though that’s where you actually live? And your “open-jaw” exists because you don’t go back to New Orleans at the end, leaving a break in the itinerary.

(You don’t actually have to put an open-jaw here – you could use another stopover in Ottawa and go back to New Orleans as the outbound portion of a third trip!)

If you want to do this, keep a few things in mind. First off, you’ll obviously have to buy a one-way outbound flight to kick off your New Orleans trip in May. Second, you’ll have to make sure the itinerary, open-jaw and all, falls within the MPM for New Orleans to Stockholm. This means folks in Vancouver or Calgary might only be able to make this work using Los Angeles or San Francisco as their US destinations. Lastly, although I’ve never checked, I don’t believe this “1.5 trips” trick would work in reverse – in our example, if you flew out to Stockholm first, then put a one-way to New Orleans as the outbound of your next trip – as I believe there’d be a violation of Rule 4, the backtracking rule.

Playing with MPMs

In Part 1 I stated that the closer two cities are to being antipodes (i.e., perfectly opposite each other), the higher the maximum permitted mileage for a valid routing with Aeroplan. Well, as I perhaps alluded to in the 9 Amazing Redemption Ideas, the Canadian metropolises in the East (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, etc.) are really close to being antipodes with Perth, Australia. For those out West, Vancouver and Victoria are pretty damn close to being diametrically opposed to Johannesburg, South Africa.

I called Aeroplan and asked them for the MPMs. Montreal–Perth is 18,164, while Vancouver–Johannesburg is 16,362. Why is this important? Well, whether you’re into travelling to as many places as possible or flying as much as possible, once you know the MPM you’re working with, you can exploit it at full tilt. Let’s go through a handful of examples.

If you’re paying 150,000 to 165,000 miles for a round-trip in business class (to Africa or Australia), you might want to stretch your experience in some of the world’s best business class cabins as much as possible. Well, Vancouverites, how does the below look for an outbound?

Aeroplan Mini-RTW Vancouver to Johannesburg | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

That’s 10 hours on ANA 787 business class and 20+ hours on Turkish Airlines’s award-winning business class. For the Tokyo to Hong Kong leg, you can either stick with ANA’s 787 or try out the fifth-freedom flight on a Ethiopian Airlines 787 just for fun (granted, there’s an airport change, since ANA operates Vancouver to Haneda while Ethiopian flies to Narita; not an issue though if you want to plan one of your stopovers in Tokyo).

For the return leg, there’s many possibilities as well. You could route via Europe, Asia, or even Perth, Australia, on any combination of South African, Swiss, EVA Air, Thai, Turkish, and ANA. But I wanted to showcase the following routing, which I think any aviation geek will appreciate:

Aeroplan Mini-RTW Johannesburg to Vancouver | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

What in the hell? Three transatlantic flights on a single return journey? I, for one, was certainly mind-blown when I first discovered this was possible.

The “coolness” factor is slightly dampened by the subpar business class experience though. You do get 9 hours in South African Airways’s new A330 business class with all-aisle access, but the flight from São Paulo to Lisbon on TAP Portugal currently features angled-flat seats, which I can’t condone, and you have to fly back to Vancouver on United. (Sadly, routing to Zurich or Frankfurt just about exceeded MPM, unless you wanted to pay a fortune in surcharges for Lufthansa’s Frankfurt–Vancouver direct.)

Of course, none of that matters if you’re flying economy, in which case the biggest struggle is deciding where to use your stopovers!

Alright, now let’s give the east coast some love. Remember “Six Continents” from 9 Amazing Redemption Ideas? When I wrote that, I was amazed you could visit all six inhabited continents on a round-trip Aeroplan mini-RTW. Well, it gets better…

Aeroplan Mini-RTW Montreal to Perth via all six continents | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. That’s a trip to all six inhabited continents on a ONE-WAY. Forget business or economy, this is an epic trip no matter how you slice it. New York to Madrid via Bogotá is on Avianca, Madrid to Bangkok via Cairo is on EgyptAir, and the last leg to Perth is on Thai Airways.

Better yet, what I’ve shown above is only the “bones” of what’s possible. As you can see, we’re only at 17,708 total mileage, and the Montreal–Perth MPM is 18,164, so there’s still mileage to spare. Head on over to GCMap to give things a whirl yourself and see what you can add!

It really is lamentable that Aeroplan only lets us have two stopovers, but that’s the way it is, so pick two places to stay for a while and maximize your 23-hour layovers in the rest.

I hope these examples have illustrated the power of understanding MPMs when planning your mini-RTW. You get the opportunity to play around with routings and mileages, in order to fit literally an entire world of travel between your origin and destination. You can customize things to your preference, flying and seeing as much or as little as your heart desires. And keep in mind, you don’t have to be travelling to the other side of the world to make the most of your MPM – the above just shows you what’s possible at the extremes, and you can apply these lessons to any redemptions you make.

Conclusion

In this installment the series on the Aeroplan mini-RTW, I’ve introduced two tricks that are great to have up your sleeve. If for whatever reason you aren’t able to make the most of stopovers and open-jaws the traditional way, you always have the option of leveraging these tools to get one-and-a-half trips out of your Aeroplan miles rather than just one. Also, with regards to MPM, I’ve driven home the point that I raised in Part 1 that “knowledge is power”. Know your MPM and you can figure out how to squeeze every drop of value out of your redemption.

I’ll be writing Part 3 of the series next week, which will be focused on what I consider the crown jewel in getting the utmost value out of the Aeroplan mini-RTW: free 23-hour layovers. We’ll be doing a full walkthrough on how to find and construct out-of-this-world itineraries that’ll make the Aeroplan phone agent’s head explode. Stay tuned.

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22 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Trung Ngo

    Hey Ricky,

    With MPM, I think I got this right but wanted to check with you to be safe.

    My plan for the following trip from YYZ to NRT or HND to SYD and lastly to MLE. My question is around MPM. I know my furthest destination is SYD (9,663 mi) and according to Great Circle Mapper I would need to do the following:

    YYZ-HND – 6,443 mi – Stop
    HND-SYD – 4,837 mi – Destination
    SYD-MLE – 5,678 mi – Stop
    MLE-YYZ – 8,739 mi

    From the above, I guess I am well within the MPM permitted correct?

  2. Avatar
    Yani Macute

    Is the MPM counted as one way only? If i decide to use my 2 stopovers before reaching the final destination, do i still have to follow the one MPM only?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, it’s counted one-way only. And yes, the one MPM applies regardless of where your stopovers are.

  3. Avatar
    Chloe

    Hi Ricky,

    Really appreciate all your articles. I’m trying to plan my honeymoon using your mini rtw tips and I’m struggling with the routing. I was hoping to route the following:
    YYZ-TPE layover – 7.5k mi
    TPE-DPS destination – 2.4k mi
    DPS-BKK stop – 1.8k mi
    BKK-SIN layover – 875 mi
    SIN-MLE stop – 2.1k mi
    MLE-IST layover – 3.7k mi
    IST-YYZ – 5k mi
    Total – 23.6k mi

    The total exceeds the 16.2k MPM between YYZ and DPS. Is there a way around this? Or do I need to forfeit MLE?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hi Chloe,

      MPM works on a one-way basis. Your outbound (YYZ-TPE-DPS) and return (DPS-BKK-SIN-MLE-IST-YYZ) both fall within the 16.2k MPM, so you should be good!

      1. Avatar
        Chloe

        Thank you so much Ricky! That was silly. In terms of the availability of flights, I’ve been looking them up one-way basis for each segment, will this always work? I heard that in some cases, flight rewards are only available when you group it with another flight, so it won’t show up on a one-way basis. Or vice versa, some flights might only be available if it is not linked to another flight.

        1. Avatar
          Ricky

          Occasionally that happens – it’s called "married segments", when airlines only want a certain flight to be booked in conjunction with a different flight and not on its own. Generally speaking, the segment-by-segment searching strategy is the best way to go, because otherwise you’d be stuck searching thousands of permutations.

          1. Avatar
            Chloe

            Thanks for the help! Appreciate it. I’m a little confused with the backtracking rule, for flights like YYZ-CAI, CAI-IST, IST-MLE or SIN-SGN, SGN-BKK, BKK-DPS, DPS-TPE, would these route count as backtracking? Since CAI is south of IST, and I guess I would’ve flew pass SIN twice?

            1. Avatar
              Ricky

              The only rule determining whether or not you “backtrack” is the MPM rule. If you’re within MPM, then you’re good.

  4. Avatar
    Nicholas

    Hi Ricky,
    About the one & a half trick, I would like to do Boston to Montreal end of April ( stopover), then Montreal to Barcelona in Sept. (destination) and back to Montreal (open jaw).
    It seems that Aeroplan does not like it as Iit shows a note stating it’s invalid and refers to the Multi destination rules.
    Am I doing something wrong?
    Details:
    1. Air Canada /AC8455 / Boston to Montreal / Apr. 28 / 0630 0743 (stopover)
    2. Swiss / LX87 / Montreal to Zurich / Sept. 13 / 1650 0615+1
    3. Swiss / LX1952 / Zurich to Barcelona / Sept. 14/ 0710 0850 (destination)
    4. Swiss / LX1951 / Barcelona to Zurich / Sept 24 / 0625 0805
    5. Swiss / LX86 / Zurich to Montreal / Sept 24 / 1250 1510 (open jaw)

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      The itinerary has one stopover and one open-jaw, which can’t be booked online. The online search engine can only handle either one stopover OR one open-jaw. You’ll have to call in to book.

  5. Avatar
    Fran

    Wonderful – feel like I just might be brave enough to try to use my 237,000 Miles!

  6. Avatar
    Elle

    Wait, I’m confused. Under the "playing with MPM" half of the article, I thought for a round-trip aeroplan redemption you can only do two stopovers? So only two of the cities (in addition to destination city) are allowed for long-term stay then, and the rest are layovers? (Or can they all be stopovers?)

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      That’s correct – three long stays (two stopovers plus one destination) and the rest would have to be long layovers.

  7. Avatar
    mf

    Is it possible to do the 1 and a half trick using multiple zones/continents? Looking to go one way from Caribbean to YWG. Then do a round trip from Ywg to Istanbul or western Europe a few months later.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Caribbean–Winnipeg–Europe might be pushing it in terms of MPM. You’ll have to play around a bit and see. Ideally you want the overall routing to be as "straight line" as possible, so because Winnipeg is such a detour, it might be quite challenging.

      1. Avatar
        Elle

        With this one and a half rule though, would this ‘open-jaw’ that doesn’t end near the originating city work? ie. if our home base was YVR, but we want to go to Southeast Asia in one month, and then months later go to Europe? Bali – YVR (long stopover) – London sounds awesome, but just wondering about when we return, the open-jaw probably can’t end near YVR?

        1. Avatar
          Ricky

          No the “half” part would have to be elsewhere in North America, or else you’d end up paying Asia 2 – Europe mileage (and probably exceeding MPM). So you could do something like Bali – Vancouver – Toronto or somewhere else on the east side of North America.

  8. Avatar
    Sam hancock

    Does an open jaw count as part of my MPM. E.g. if I’m leaving from YYZ but arriving back in IAD, does IAD -YYZ count against my MPM total?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yes, the distance for IAD-YYZ is added to your total. Be aware that if IAD is further from your destination than YYZ, IAD might end up counting as your origin, and then the start of your trip will be the open-jaw.

  9. Avatar
    brett

    I consider myself pretty well versed in Aeroplan but there are still some things I struggle with, I’ve tried to wrap my head around nested trips a few times. IE: Buying a cheap fare from another city and using AP to get there. Like when Aeromexico had a ridiculous price from ICN-SCL. I was thinking of using AP to go YVR-XXX-BKK (stop) BKK-ICN (Lengthy stop with Nested trip) then ICN-YVR. But when I added up the cost for the whole thing it seemed rather futile.

    This post was informative though with the open jaw deal and the New Orleans idea. However as a Vancouverite, I feel kinda SOL in this situation. I actually did wanna go o New Orleans and would’ve loved to do it this way but can’t.

    My only issue with the post is the last idea involves Avianca, which as most of us know is impossible to book with Aeroplan these days, as are Copa and Air China. It really COULD be one of the best FFPs out there, but when they play games like this with no end in sight, it tarnishes the whole system since now South America is virtually shut out of the game. I will council though that Avianca Brazil is still bookable so one could fly MIA-GRU-JNB with Avianca Brazil and then South African.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Brett! Nested trips can be a great idea if they suit your needs. For example, a good strategy for Canadians who want to explore Asia and also want to sample lots of nice premium class products is to do a long stopover somewhere in Asia like HKG, and then throw in intra-Asia segments booked with Alaska miles, on airlines like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. Your plan would’ve been cool if you could make it work and wanted to visit all those places to begin with. It would also help if you actually like flying to some degree, since that’s a lot of time spent in the air.

      As a Vancouverite, MPM considerations might prevent you from applying the trick on a trip to Europe, but you could try the same thing with Asia couldn’t you? Say, (openjaw)-YVR-HND (destination)-YVR (stopover)-MSY.

      Air China’s possible to book now (see this post: http://princeoftravel.com/blog/air-china-returns-to-aeroplan) but you’re right that Copa and Avianca remain inaccessible. Good shout on Avianca Brasil, and of course there’s that GRU-YYZ direct flight on Air Canada with no YQ, though availability is tricky to find on that one.

Ricky

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