Here’s our current award-flight itinerary:
Miles (per person)
Cost on day of Award booking
Los Angeles to Iquitos (via Panama City)
Sao Paulo to Fortaleza to Rio de Janeiro*
Buenos Aires to Ushuaia*
Santiago to Easter Island (Round Trip)
Santiago to Papeete, Tahiti
Papeete, Tahiti to Auckland
Air Tahiti Nui
$432.97 (Air NZ)
Queenstown to Sydney
Cairns to Singapore
Singapore to Bali to Kuala Lumpur
Phnom Penh to Hong Kong
Chengdu to Tokyo (Via Hong Kong)
Dragonair & Cathay Pacific
Tokyo to Istanbul
*Means we’re not sure we’re booking this or not as our itinerary is still in flux. Program is which miles we’re using. Airline refers to the flight operator.
This is our plan right now and is certainly subject to change. We’ll make further updates as we book more flights to give you an idea of what kind of savings you get by using miles. Even now, with only 4 flights booked, you can see how powerful awards miles are and how much money can be saved: ~$150 in fees vs. ~$3,500 to buy the tickets.
Costs Involved in Churning and Award Travel
No free lunches here, unfortunately. Award tickets always involve some combination of taxes and fees. This can be as low as $2.50 or, depending on what class you fly, it might be over $1,000. This is why it’s important you read the rules for any frequent flyer program you join. For the most part, United, American, and British Airways are pretty good about not charging a lot of taxes/fees. That being said, British Airways will slam you with taxes/fees if you fly out of London Heathrow. Also, don’t forget about the close-in and phone center booking fees I mentioned earlier.
As for churning and manufacturing spend, our total costs to accumulate our 600,000+ miles was $339.05. Right now, we estimate that we’ll have to pay ~$500 in taxes/fees for all of our major award flights per person. So, for all of the flights above, we’ll be spending around $1,340 total, or $670 per person. That total is only $71 more than our one way flight to Iquitos would have cost on its own.
That's all, folks! Hopefully you enjoyed our basic guide for earning and burning airline miles to fly for cheap around the world. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to put “Award Flights” in the beginning of the subject line. We’ll do our best to respond as quickly as we can.