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The Aeroplan Mini-RTW: Long Layovers Ricky May 10, 2017

The Aeroplan Mini-RTW: Long Layovers

Welcome to the last installment in this feature on “Mini-Round-the-World” trips with Aeroplan. Part 1 introduced you to the basics of planning this epic trip, while Part 2 was all about stretching your Aeroplan Mini-RTW ticket to its maximum value. However, I left out one important topic for Part 3 – what I believe to be the most powerful trick to have up your sleeve: long layovers.

If the two stopovers of your Mini-RTW allow you to stay in a city for any length of time, then long layovers can also be thought of as “mini-stops”: you’re allowed to stay in as many places as you’d like for up to 24 hours.

Is a 23-hour layover enough to see everything a city has to offer? Probably not. But it’s plenty of time to get a taste for things and decide on whether or not you’d like to return. Plus, getting to spend a day in a whole new place for the paltry price of some additional airport taxes is an incredible deal in my books.

I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of piecing together an epic trip like this. While the example may seem extreme (and unrealistic), it’s meant to illustrate just how outrageously creative you can get!

The Walkthrough

Our first limitation is maximum permitted mileage (MPM): the higher the MPM for your overall trip (origin to destination), the more flying you’re allowed to do, so the more mini-stops you’d be allowed to make.

Let’s use the example from last week’s installment: Vancouver (YVR) to Johannesburg (JNB). As we know, the MPM for this city pair is 16,362 miles.

For ease of illustration, suppose I wanted to make Tokyo and Singapore your stopovers, both on the outbound leg. The “bones” of the trip might therefore be as follows:

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

 

1. ANA       / NH115 / Vancouver to Tokyo Haneda / Aug 1 / 1615 1820 (stopover)

2. ANA       / NH843 / Tokyo Haneda to Singapore / Sep 8 / 1220 0630 (stopover)

3. Singapore / SQ478 / Singapore to Johannesburg / Nov 3 / 0125 0610

As you can see, we have about 3,000 miles to spare until we reach the MPM. So we can get a little creative with the portion of our trip between Tokyo and Singapore – why not do a multi-stop tour of Asia?

There are two primary obstacles when constructing a trip like this:

  1. Airline schedules

  2. Award availability

Let’s worry about the former first. You have to find Star Alliance flights between your desired layover cities whose schedules line up such that you get as close to a 24-hour layover as possible, without going over 24 hours (since it would count as a stopover).

An easy way to look up scheduled routes between two cities is to type “AAA-BBB flight schedule” into Google Search:

Tokyo to Sapporo Flight Schedule | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

Scroll through the list and look for Star Alliance flights. For my first hop from Tokyo to Sapporo, I’ll choose the following ANA flight:

Tokyo to Sapporo ANA flight | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

I love Japan, so I’d feel like hopping on over to Osaka next. I arrived in Sapporo at 6:25pm, so I’ll try to catch a flight that departs as close to 6:25pm as possible the next day. Searching for “CTS-OSA flight schedule”…

[side note: TYO and OSA are IATA city codes, representing Tokyo and Osaka respectively. They are distinct from IATA airport codes like HND for Tokyo Haneda and ITM for Osaka Itami. You can use the city codes in your searches to capture all airports within a city.]

Sapporo-to-Osaka-flight-schedule

The 6:25pm arrival and 6pm departure means that I have a total of 23 hours and 35 minutes in Sapporo. That’s plenty of time to consume plenty of Hokkaido’s specialty ramen and Sapporo beer.

Carrying on from Osaka, keeping in mind my 7:55pm arrival the previous day. Last stop in Japan: Fukuoka, for its famous shrines and castle. And yes, its airport code is FUK. Don’t snigger!

Osaka-to-Fukuoka-flight-schedule

Can you see where this is headed? You “build up” the trip by searching for cities you want to add, and you look for scheduled routes that allow you to spend as close to 24 hours as possible in the preceding city.

We’ve spent a few days hopping around Japan. Let’s move on to the rest of Asia, starting with a taste of South Korea (ICN is Seoul Incheon Airport)…

Fukuoka-to-Seoul-flight-schedule

…and followed by a jaunt over to Shanghai (PVG)…

Seoul-to-Shanghai-flight-schedule

…and why not throw in Taipei (TPE) as well?

Shanghai-to-Taipei-flight-schedule

Let’s see how we’re doing so far on a map. I’ve had to hide the city names to make it (barely) readable.

Mini-RTW-in-progress

Our total mileage is still only 14,807 miles, well short of the MPM of 16,362. So we can still take this even further. I’ll go ahead and add Hong Kong (HKG), Bangkok, Thailand (BKK), and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam (SGN). Keeping in mind that we had arrived in Taipei at 10pm…

Taipei-to-Hong-Kong-Flight-Schedule

(It’s an especially sweet feeling when the stars align to give you a 23h55m layover somewhere.)

Hong-Kong-to-Bangkok-Flight-Schedule

Thai 607 is the latest Star Alliance flight of the day between Hong Kong and Bangkok, so I have to accept a shorter layover in Hong Kong (only 21 hours) – still plenty of time for a day of sightseeing though.

Bangkok-to-Ho-Chi-Minh-City-Flight-Schedule

Similarly, I’d only have about 20 hours in Bangkok (arrive at 10:25pm, depart at 6:15pm). But that’ll give me enough time to form a first impression. Perhaps if you’ve visited Bangkok before, 20 hours would be enough for a quick dose of nostalgia?

Ho-Chi-Minh-City-to-Singapore-Flight-Schedule

My last mini-stop is Ho Chi Minh City, where I’d get to spend another full 23h55m (7:45pm to 7:40pm) before flying to Singapore and getting some well-deserved rest!

Our final itinerary from Vancouver to Johannesburg looks like this:

Complete-Mini-RTW-with-Long-Layovers
1.  ANA       / NH115  / Vancouver to Tokyo Haneda     / Aug 1  / 1615 1820 (stopover)

2.  ANA       / NH4731 / Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo       / Sep 8  / 1650 1825 (23h35m layover)
3.  ANA       / NH780  / Sapporo to Osaka Itami        / Sep 9  / 1800 1955 (23h30m layover)
4.  ANA       / NH1709 / Osaka Kansai to Fukuoka       / Sep 10 / 1925 2040 (23h40m layover)
5.  Asiana    / OZ135  / Fukuoka to Seoul Incheon      / Sep 11 / 2020 2145 (22h15m layover)
6.  Asiana    / OZ367  / Seoul Incheon to Shanghai     / Sep 12 / 2000 2055 (23h10m layover)
7.  EVA Air   / BR721  / Shanghai to Taipei            / Sep 13 / 2005 2200 (23h55m layover)
8.  EVA Air   / BR827  / Taipei to Hong Kong           / Sep 14 / 2155 2345 (21h layover)
9.  Thai      / TG607  / Hong Kong to Bangkok          / Sep 15 / 2045 2225 (19h50m layover)
10. Thai      / TG556  / Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City   / Sep 16 / 1815 1945 (23h55m layover)
11. Singapore / SQ185  / Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore / Sep 17 / 1940 2240 (stopover)

12. Singapore / SQ478 / Singapore to Johannesburg      / Nov 3  / 0125 0610

I’m going to stop here, but we technically still have room to run until we reach the MPM. If you want, you can give it a try and see if we can squeeze in an eleventh mini-stop somewhere!

Now, once you’ve constructed the ideal version of your trip as above, you’ve completed half the work. The next step is to verify that there’s availability on all these flights by searching for them segment-by-segment. If you’re booking early enough, this shouldn’t be a problem, but be wary that one flight with no availability can force you to go back and re-jig your entire schedule. Just something to keep in mind.

Once you’ve verified that there’s availability, call in to the Aeroplan call centre to book your trip. Say something like “I’ve found space on my desired flights, can I feed you the flight numbers?”

Be persistent if the agent says something like “this is impossible!” As long as your trip fulfills the MPM requirement, doesn’t have more than two stopovers, and doesn’t backtrack through the same city twice (unless once before and once after the destination), you’re golden.

Pros & Cons

Am I suggesting that everyone should book this exact trip? Of course not. For many people, ten flights in ten days is completely absurd.

And yet, for many others, visiting ten cities in ten days for little additional cost is an irresistible travel deal.

As always, the point is to show you what’s possible – you can then scale these ideas as you see fit. For example, if you don’t quite have enough time off to squeeze a crazy 10-day hop around Asia into your vacation, you can leverage the techniques described above to get one or two mini-stops out of your Mini-RTW, which is still incredible value.

I chose Asia for the example since I believe it’s the best place to construct something like this. All the daily flights are relatively short hops, and you don’t cross any major time zones, which means that jetlag won’t be an issue. After all, you could theoretically use the same 23-hour layover trick between long-haul flights, but after a few of those you’d be absolutely exhausted. 

But remember, the example we did above only illustrates the one-way portion of your round-trip itinerary (if it were just a one-way booking, you wouldn’t be allowed the two stopovers in Tokyo and Singapore).

That means that on your return trip from Johannesburg to Vancouver, you could do the exact same thing in Asia if you wanted, or you could apply the principles we covered today to get a couple of mini-stops in Europe, or South America, or Africa, or the Middle East, or North America… the possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

One of the most underrated features of Aeroplan and simultaneously one of the most powerful, long layovers or mini-stops can stretch your Mini-RTW trip to unbelievably extreme lengths. Even just adding one or two mini-stops to your trip can allow you to expand your horizons in a new place and get a genuine taste of the local vibe. And good luck calculating a “value” for your points, since no airline or travel agency would allow you to book such a trip on a regular cash ticket.

Best of all, the walkthrough I provided in this article represents just one of near endless possibilities – now it’s your turn to see what you can come up with. Comment below if you’re trying to plan a mini-stop somewhere!

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33 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Yani

    So just to be clear, all the itinerary you mentioned above are the flights that you looked up yourself and built.. as long as it didn’t go beyond the MPM limit. So when booking these flights, do you just call Aeroplan costumer service and pretty much lay out the itinerary that you build through the phone? What would you say??

    "Hi, I would like to book a flight from Toronto to Thailand, but i would like a stopover in Korea for 2 weeks… then korea to japan for a layover, japan to philippine layover.. then stopover singapore.. then singapore to thailand." is that right?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Correct. It’s usually good to set up the call by saying something like "Hi, I’d like to book a complex trip with lots of stopovers and layovers. I’ve found all the flights I want so let’s construct it together." Then you feed the agent the flights one by one.

  2. Avatar
    R Squirrel

    I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog! Reading these posts has really expanded my thoughts on how to maximize the trip I’m currently planning.

    I have a question about stopovers & aeroplan. I’ve read the terms & conditions re: flights & notice it doesn’t say anything about having to split your stopovers between outbound/return flights (1 per direction). But when I called aeroplan to ask some questions about tentative itinerary, I was told that stopovers had to be one per direction (1 outbound/ 1 return)—I wasn’t feeding any specific flights to the agent, so am not sure if I had, whether the itinerary would have ticketed. But I’ve seen this information passed along in a couple of other places online as well. Have you ever encountered problems booking tickets with both stopovers on either the outbound or return segment? Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Unfortunately, not all agents are well-acquainted with all the rules of the program. In this case, the agent is wrong, and you can indeed have two stopovers on the same side of the destination.

  3. Avatar
    Trevor

    I see plenty of Europe and Asia examples, but have you ever tried to do this for a Central America/Caribbean trip? I know it can be done, but examples/samples help jump start the imagination. I need to book for a family of 4 and want to do business class, and trying to do that to Asia takes soooo many miles.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      If you pick any three destinations in Central America and the Caribbean, odds are that you’ll be working with the route networks of Copa Airlines and Avianca, as well as perhaps Air Canada and United, to get you to and from each place. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want some help brainstorming.

      I will say that while you’ll be paying fewer miles for business class to this region (as compared to Europe/Asia), you’ll also be flying on a significantly inferior business class product (limited seat recline, catering, service, etc.) For that reason, I typically don’t mind flying to Central America and the Caribbean in economy class and saving my miles for longer trips in business class.

  4. Avatar
    Mike

    Any particular airlines that you recommend to find availability with four seats in F?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      For four seats in First Class, I think Asiana would be the most likely candidates. They are relatively generous with their First Class availability, and they also have 12 First Class seats on their A380 compared to most airlines’ 8.

  5. Avatar
    Fran

    Will be taking the planning stage plunge – Toronto to South Africa – to Greece – Asia (Siam Reep) – Toronto?? Will post when I get an itinerary (how to you remember Airport Codes?)

  6. Avatar
    andreanne

    Hi Ricky,
    Thanks a lot for all the info.
    I just check if a direct flight exist between PVG and PEK on google fligt like you suggested. It exist for the date i want and I can book it on Air China. However, when I look in the aeroplan website, this flight isn’t proposed. Does it mean that I can’t use my points for that flight or if I call aeroplan directly they can book me anyways.
    Thanks a lot for your help !!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hi Andreanne,

      Google Flights doesn’t show award space, which is what you’re looking for. Just because a flight is available for you to buy (using $$) doesn’t mean it’ll be available on points.

      So if a flight doesn’t show up on Aeroplan, you’ll have to look for alternative flights/dates that do show up.

      Cheers,
      Ricky

  7. Avatar
    Cory

    Any suggestions in booking a year-long trip for mini-RTW? Aeroplan only allows you to book a year in advance. Is it better to wait and hope for close-in availability? or book early and pay change fees?

    Any advice would be very appreciated!

  8. Avatar
    mdc

    Amazing blog and information, I will use it to its full advantage this summer! I love to finally a great Canadian travel blog!

  9. Avatar
    FX

    Great blog Ricky, keep up your excellent work!!!

    • FX
  10. Avatar
    Syed Karim

    Hi Ricky,

    This is just mind-blowing stuff that you’ve shared. I have about 300k Aeroplan points and am hoping to leverage these for a business class mini-RTW for myself and my wife. Would the following work? Toronto is the origin:
    Toronto (YYZ) to Istanbul (IST) – stopover
    Istanbul (IST) to Jeddah (JED) – stopover
    Jeddah (JED) to Bangkok (BKK) – destination
    Bangkok (BKK) to Toronto – return home

    Few questions:
    1. Am I correct in assuming that Bangkok would be considered the destination? Do you know the MPM?
    2. if BKK is the destination, the Aeroplan flight chart shows 155k for business class (Asia 2). However, it shows 165k for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Middle East). Will I pay 155k or 165k in Aeroplan points?
    3. Can I add a layover in Cairo (between IST and JED)?
    4. Approximately, what should I expect to pay in taxes and fees for such a trip (assuming Turkish Airlines and other airlines that have lower fuel charges)? Just a rough # will do…

    Thanks in advance. This is just amazing stuff!!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Syed,

      Yes, there’s a world of possibilities out there! To answer your questions:

      1. Yes BKK would be considered the destination.

      2. You can find the MPM easily using the technique I described here: https://princeoftravel.com/blog/how-to-find-aeroplan-mpm-online

      3. Sure you can!

      4. Once you factor in the airport taxes you’re looking at a rough figure of $150-200 per person. Perhaps higher if you attract a bit of fuel surcharge.

      Hope this helps! Any other questions just ask.

      Ricky

  11. Avatar
    Alexandre Dubé Corneau

    The mini-rtw seems great and I’d like to take advantage of it maybe next year.
    So if I want to book a trip like this one, I must call aeroplan? I guess it’s impossible to book this from the website. On the website, except if I choose a multicity(where I can add only a stopover),there is no way I can do for example a trip like YUL-ZRH(Stopover)-IST(destination) and come back with IST-LIS(Stopover)-YUL.

    So if I want to book a trip like this one, I would have to note all the flights that I want to take and call Aeroplan?
    Thank you!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Yep, anything more complex than a trip with one stopover or one open-jaw requires calling Aeroplan.

  12. Avatar
    Mathieu

    Hi Ricky,

    Just discovered the wonderful world of Mini RTW and I’m already itching to have enough miles to plan a sick Europe 1 trip. Would love to do Asia 2, but I’m thinking that’s just too many miles.

    So, quick look at a Europe map, would a
    YOW (Ottawa) – CDG (stopover)
    CDG-BRU (layover)
    BRU-Stockholm (destination – open jaw)
    (train from Stockholm to Bergen)
    Maybe a layover here? Amsterdam? London?
    Bergen – YOW

    trip work? At first glance at least? I think it would, but I’m not sure about the going in a straight direction thing that I read at some places online…

    Thanks,

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Mathieu!

      Sounds like it would work! You aren’t doing too much backtracking, and given that it’s Europe, it’s all small distances anyway. To validate the routing, find your availability and call in to book (you have to call in to book itineraries with more than one stopover/open-jaw).

      Cheers,
      Ricky

  13. Avatar
    Brett

    Update on your wording regarding Asiana.

    Asiana only waives YQ if you’re 1-way ex-Korea.

    Booking BKK-ICN on Thai then ICN-LAX on Asiana still results in YQ. But booking each of those segments individually results in $0 YQ. Incredibly stupid.

  14. Avatar
    brett armstrong

    I’m not sure where the info regarding Asiana fuel surcharges came from, care to elaborate?

    I recently booked a mini-rtw in which I wanted to fly BKK-ICN-LAX-YVR in OZ J class to try out an A380. The fees for the whole booking totalled somewhere in the neighbourhood of $800 CAD. That was too much I thought so I made an adjustment.

    Made a change to BKK-TPE-SEA-YVR and suddenly the fees dropped by more than $300. Since I’m E35k I don’t pay YQ on Air Canada domestic/TB flights I could only attribute this ridiculous charge to the OZ flight. Are you saying that the BKK-ICN flight garnered $300 in YQ (obviously this is an estimate) or would it be because it’s a flight not ORIGINATING in Korea that the YQ to the whole BKK-ICN-LAX trip would apply?

    I booked this at the very end of April 2017 so it’s fairly recent…or is your info on the recent change even MORE recent? It’d be worth cancelling my whole trip and rebooking if that cost comes way down. How about the Thai change? I was under the impression they levied heavy YQ on their flights. If it’s just symantics and "well THEY don’t charge it, but AP does" then the conversation is pointless but if they’ve both made that big change then AP has in fact just gotten better balancing out some of their recent negative changes.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I think Asiana has stopped levying fuel surcharges on its own flights ORIGINATING from Korea, as you’ve surmised. Try doing some searches like PEK-ICN vs ICN-PEK, LAX-ICN vs ICN-LAX and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Unfortunately there’s no YQ waiver on itineraries that merely connect in ICN.

      I might do a post soon on all the YQ waiver technicalities so watch out for that.

      1. Avatar
        brett

        Sounds good, I did do some test cases and found you were right, I’m not sure when they made those changes but at least they’re positive ones. Effectively now Thai doesn’t charge YQ at all, unless maybe flying on a 5th freedom route?

        This definitely opens some things up, made me start thinking about cancelling my mini-rtw and rebooking it.

  15. Avatar
    Mary

    Great information. Do you think yyz-bru-prg(stopover)-zrh-fco-sin-kul(destination)-tpe(stopover)-yyz is doable?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Definitely sounds doable!

  16. Avatar
    Josée

    Good blog! another good tip is expertflyer.com to find award flight availability, seats and fares!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Josée speaks the truth! A subscription to ExpertFlyer is more than worth it, but the 5-day free trial can be invaluable!

  17. Avatar
    Arlene G

    Enjoyed this series ! So great to see a new Canadian blog.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Thanks for the kind words Arlene!

  18. Avatar
    Sylvain

    So the 16,362 miles max between YVR and JNB are for each way or it’s for roundtrip?

    Let say I’d like to travel from YUL to DPS via Bueno Aires (stopover) and Cape Town (stopover)
    It’s 16,154 mi according to gcmap (yul-eze;eze-cpt;cpt-dps)
    I don’t know what’s MPM between YUL and DPS, but if YUL-PER is 18,164 it should be ok.

    And for the return open jaw to BKK, layover in ZHR and back to YUL (bkk-zhr;zhr-yul)
    Does it sound doable?

    Thanks

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Sylvain!

      The MPM is one way. Your routing sounds ok in theory but keep in mind that there are no direct flights between any of those cities, so you’d have to make connections which would increase your total mileage. So therefore I don’t think routing from Montreal to Bali via Buenos Aires and Cape Town will be valid. The return trip should definitely work though.

      Send me an email if you need any more help! Always happy to chat.

Ricky

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