The Trip of a Million Lifetimes

Around the World in 69 Days - The Trip of a Million Lifetimes
Business & First Class Around the World to 23 Destinations
FOR FREE on points and miles
Pre-Trip Introduction Posts: 
1) Strategy Behind Where to Go and How to Book It
2) Where is the Best Value of Points per Mile with the AA Oneworld Explorer Award
and ANA Round-The-World Ticket?
3) What to drink at each destination?
4) Where did all the points come from?
5) Concluding Thoughts
Trip of a Million Lifetimes Posts:
1. Introduction
3. JW Marriott Cuzco
4. CUZ-LIM on LA in Y
5. Sheraton Lima
6. LIM-SCL-IPC on LA in J
7. Steve's Guesthouse Easter Island
8. IPC-SCL on LA in J
9. Marriott Santiago
10. SCL-MDZ on LA in Y
11. Wine Farm Posada in Mendoza
12. MDZ - AEP on LA in Y
13. Hostel Ostinatto Buenos Aires
14. AEP - IGR on LA in Y
15. Secret Garden - Iguazu Falls, Argentina
16. IGU-GRU on JJ in Y
17. Marriott Renaissance Sao Paulo
18. GRU - IST on TK in J
19. Hotel Sphendon Istanbul
20. IST - ATH - JTR on A3 in J/Y
21. Starwood Luxury Collection Vedema Santorini
22. JTR - ATH on A3 in Y
23. Intercontinental Athens
24. ATH - VIE on OS in J
25. Courtyard by Marriott Vienna Messe
26. VIE - LED on OS in J
27. Renaissance Baltica St. Petersburg
28. LED - IST - SGN on TK in J (w/ First Class seat)
29. Park Hyatt Saigon
30.SGN - NRT on NH in J
31. Grand Hyatt Roppongi Tokyo
32. HND - ITM on NH in Y
33. Westin Kyoto
34. KIX - HKG on NH in J
35. JW Marriott Hong Kong
36. HKG - BKK - SYD - AKL on TG/NZ in F/J
37. Friend's Air Mattress Auckland
38. AKL - NOU on NZ in Y
39. Le Meridien Noumea
40. Le Meridien Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia
41. Le Meridien Noumea
42. NOU - SYD - MEL on QF in J
43. Park Hyatt Melbourne
44. MEL - CNS on QF in J
45. Sheraton Mirage Resort Port Douglas
46. CNS - SYD on QF in J
47. Marriott Harbourside Sydney
48. SYD - DFW - CLT on QF/AA in J
49. Concluding Thoughts

Where do I begin?

Once in a Million Lifetimes Around the World Trip

Once in a Million Lifetimes Around the World Trip

My wife and I leave in August of this year from our home in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA for a Once in a Lifetime trip. And I mean once in the lifetime of someone as blessed and as fortunate as me. So really, like once in a lifetime of one in a million people. So a Once in a Million Lifetime trip. And our flights? FREE (well, except for some marginal taxes and fees). Four and Five Star hotels along the way? FREE. What a celebration of the freedom to travel. And we are doing it for free! Just like the theme of this blog (Putting the Free in Freedom). In fact, this trip will be a cornerstone of the blog and its content. There are so many aspects of this trip which are germane for many types of enthusiasts. Just to name a few:

Before we get into more introductory detail, I will let the raw facts do the talking:

Flights: 54,050 nautical miles flown; 33 flights to 23 destinations
Cabins: Of 33 flights; 2 in International First Class; 21 in International Business Class; and 10 in domestic coach or first class
Countries: 21 cities visited in 14 different countries
Duration: 1 – 5 nights per destination over 69 Days
Time off Work: 10 weeks (4 weeks paid vacation; 6 weeks unpaid leave of absence)
Airline Points Required (per person): 150,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (+$330 in taxes/fees) ; 115,000 All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club Points (+$200 in taxes/fees); and 35,000 United Airlines Miles (+$78 in taxes/fees). 300,000 total per person. Additionally a $59 one-way ticket was required.
Hotel Points Redeemed: Marriott: 514,000 points; Starwood: 168,000 points; Hyatt: 81,000 points
Luggage per person: (1) Carry-On Bag Each; no checked bags
Total Estimated Value of Hotel Awards: $11,990 ($0.0175 value per hotel point redeemed)
Total Estimated Value of Air Awards, person (per ITA Matrix): $39,935 ($0.133 value per airline point redeemed)

This free trip would have been worth over $90,000 had we not earned the points to obtain it for free. And it is for business class, first class, and 4 and 5* hotels I wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway! Wow!
Introductory Detail
My wife and I are both management consultants. We usually travel Monday – Thursday each week helping solve business problems for clients of ours around the U.S., and sometimes overseas. I have been doing it for almost eight years; she for 3 years. During this time we rack up loads of airline and hotel frequent flier points. However, the real secret is that the majority of this trip was earned through credit card points. That is right; we churned through almost a dozen credit cards over 18 months to earn these points. If there was a “sign-up for this card, and spend $3,000 in 3 months offer”, we signed up for the card and put all our spending on it. We did this over and over again until we earned the oodles of points required for these awards.
We generously receive 5 weeks paid vacation each from work. We are applying 4 of these weeks during this trip, and taking the other 6 weeks as unpaid leave. Our supervisors were both encouraging and excited for us to take this trip and granted us such an extended leave. It didn’t hurt that we request the time off almost 1 year in advance!
I will dissect our trip in much greater detail in future posts. We will look at how the points were tactically earned, and how the trip was tactically booked, and the tips and tricks I learned along the way to extract the most value from the trip (e.g. we saved about $1,600 in taxes and fees for starting one of our 3 award tickets in the country of Brazil). Moreover, we will explore the challenges posed to human freedom by governments all over the world (e.g. reciprocity fee extortion to enter a country) For now – here are the destinations (in bold) and durations:

August 2013

Charlotte – Miami – [red-eye] – Lima – Cuzco 5 days; 5 nights
Cuzo – Lima 2 days; 1 night
Lima – [red-eye] – Santiago – Easter Island 3 days; 3 nights
Easter Island – Santiago 2 days; 2 nights
Santiago – Mendoza 5 days; 5 nights
Mendoza – Buenos Ares 3 days; 3 nights
Buenos Ares – Iguazu Falls 3 days; 3 nights
Iguazu Falls – Sao Paulo 3 days; 2 nights

September 2013

Sao Paulo – [red-eye] – Istanbul 1 day; 1 night
Istanbul – Athens – Santorini 5 days; 5 nights
Santorini – Athens 1 day; 1 night
Athens – Vienna 3 days; 3 nights
Vienna – St. Petersburg 3 days; 3 nights
St. Petersburg – Istanbul – [red-eye] – Bangkok – Saigon 3 days; 3 nights
Saigon – [red-eye] – Tokyo 2 days; 2 nights
Tokyo – Kyoto 1 day; 1 night
Kyoto – Hong Kong 1 day; 1 night
Hong Kong – Bangkok – [red-eye] – Sydney – Auckland 1 day; 1 night
Auckland – Noumea + Ile Des Pins (New Caledonia) 5 days; 5 nights

October 2013

New Caledonia – Sydney – Melbourne 3 days; 3 nights
Melbourne – Cairns 4 days; 4 nights
Cairns – Sydney 3 days; 3 nights
Sydney – Dallas – Charlotte jetlag.

What are your thoughts about our trip? Are we crazy? Leave me a reply and tell me how this could be improved! I cannot get over how fortunate we are to have this once in a million lifetimes experience.

– Tocqueville

PS – Kudos goes out to three frequent travel thought leaders whose blog posts and insights helped me figure out how to earn and redeem these miles. They are Gary, Ben, and The Weekly Flyer.

27 thoughts on “The Trip of a Million Lifetimes

  1. Great that you’re doing this. We just did round the world in 110 days last year, mostly cruising, but also some long haul flights. It is on the blog and pix on We put all of our purchases on our Starwood Amex and almost never have to pay for a hotel. We’re retired so don’t do the work travel any more, but still travel as much as health and funds allow.

  2. Pingback: Marking Your Wold Travels – The Joys of Wall Maps | Tocqueville Miles & Points – Putting the Free in Freedom

  3. First, I love that this site is built by HeyJK :-) Second, this trip sounds amazing! Kudos to you and the wife for making the most of life. Can’t wait to follow along in the adventure!

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    • Paul – As cool as our trip is, i am not sure we merit any of your awesome video documentation skills. The trip is a blast, hope you and the bball boys are doing well. Best regards from Saigon.

  16. Pingback: 49. Concluding Thoughts (And a Sophmoric Treatise to Freedom) | Tocqueville Miles & Points – Putting the Free in Freedom

  17. Thanks for sharing your experience about this incredible trip, in so much detail. I’ve been reading your fascinating journey all morning! Do you have any tips posted on what you packed? Carry on only? Did you do send out laundry in the hotels?

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