Do you *have* to travel round-the-world with Aeroplan for best value?

A reader asked me: “is RTW (round-the-world) the only Aeroplan reward worth pursuing?”

It is almost true that the best value for Aeroplan is round-the-world trips in premium cabins – what better to do than to visit a few continents in the front of the plane? There are, however, occasional good deals elsewhere. My favourite one, although one I will probably never get around to using, is Quebec/Ontario to Nunavut (I wrote about it before): 15,000 miles for a ticket that’s consistently worth $2,000-$2,500 and never less. I hear the northern lights can be nice 🙂 The other decent value is Europe: basically, anytime you have any international redemption with Aeroplan, you are allowed two stops plus the destination. Asia1 (and the associated round-the-world) represents good value because it allows people to stop by Europe, Asia, and either North America on the way home, or make two Asia stops.

Another good value is North America to Australia/South Pacific: with the right routing, this allows a stop in Europe, in Asia, and in Australia (or Johannesburg). Of course, there is also the South Africa option where you would go through Brazil, hop over the Atlantic, and return over Europe.

These are all interesting options, but they have two problems: a) require a lot of points (and this is going up as of Jan 1, 2014 🙁 ), and more importantly, a LOT of time (I know some people who did the full RTW itinerary in a week, and that’s my kind of travel – but most people are not insane enough to do this, so a typical itinerary will be 2-3 weeks, if not more, to be able to appreciate all the destinations).

One option that will remain even past the Jan 1, 2014 devaluation (at least until the next one, which Aeroplan seems to enjoy doing every year these days – gone are the good times of 125K in first class around the world) is good old-fashioned Europe. For 60K Aeroplan miles, which is the welcome bonus on an Amex Platinum (by referral link), you can instantly have a single ticket, and if you are intelligent about flying it, it won’t even cost all that much. As long as you avoid the fuel surcharge airlines (Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austrian) and manage to find space on Swiss, United, US Airways or even LOT to try their new 787 service (whenever it does actually operate, heh heh), you could still do the two stops and a destination, or open-jaw a few cities. You could, for instance, do YUL-ZRH on Swiss, which will cost about $40 in fees, do some intra-Europe flying, and return from either ZRH, or one of the UA gateway cities. That would be a trip on the cheap, and since you had an Amex Platinum, you would get lounge access in most locations. And don’t forget that Amex has dropped the minimum income requirement to $40,000 from the previous $60,000!

One thing: do NOT fly from LHR to North America. Besides the fact that you will need to fly AC, and pay insane surcharges, the APD (Air Passenger Duty), calculated on the distance between London and the capital of your destination, will be painful. Much better to depart other European destinations, but in my example above, you could do YUL-ZRH-LHR, take the train to CDG or fly LHR-WAW, stop, then return WAW-YYZ. This itinerary would probably price out at around $200-300 all in – not too bad for a complicated intra-European itinerary.

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