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.
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?
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:
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...
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.
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.