Hi, I’m Serena. I am currently a dental student who got the travel bug after studying abroad in 2019 with Semester at Sea, a program that allowed me to travel around the world for a semester on a cruise ship, visiting 10 countries along the way.

After I came back from my life-changing semester, I was hooked on travel. But a few months later, COVID-19 hit.

It wasn’t until my mom added me to the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group in early 2022 that I learned about points and miles. I began absorbing as much information as possible because I wanted to travel before starting dental school. However, I was saving money for school, so I wanted to make sure I traveled as frugally as possible.

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

In front of the entrance to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. See the crane in the background? This magnificent church has been under construction since 1883. I hope to return one day once it’s finished!

Soon after joining the 10xTravel Insiders group, I saw someone post about a Round the World” (RTW) ticket bookable through All Nippon Airways (ANA), a Japanese airline based in Tokyo. They detailed how a RTW ticket could let them travel to about 10 countries in business class for fewer than 200,000 points.

After looking into it further, I learned that a handful of airlines offer some version of a RTW ticket, letting you book a series of plane tickets for a deeply discounted price in points. Each airline has nuanced rules specific to their program, but they all require circumnavigation around the world.

I read up on each type of RTW ticket and decided to book with ANA because I found it has reasonable restrictions, plenty of partners (it’s part of Star Alliance) and one of the best redemption rates.

beautiful temples in Bangkok

Visiting one of the many beautiful temples in Bangkok

How I Earned the Points and Miles Needed for an RTW Award

After I decided to target the ANA Round the World redemption for my summer travels, I needed to acquire enough ANA miles. However, the only flexible currency that transfers to ANA Mileage Club is American Express Membership Rewards.

At the time, my only travel credit card was the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Luckily, in spring of 2022, The Platinum Card® from American Express was offering 150,000 Amex points in exchange for spending $6,000. I knew 150,000 Membership Rewards points would be enough to book a RTW ticket with ANA, so I applied for the card.

At the time I was working a gap-year job as a software engineer. Because the job required travel, my company reimbursed the annual fee of one premium credit card as one of the employee perks, which made applying for the Amex Platinum Card even more of a no-brainer.

About a day after applying, I was approved for the card. I was able to meet the minimum-spending requirement in less than a month by paying rent and for LASIK surgery.

The Flights I Booked

The hardest part about an ANA Round the World trip is actually finding the award availability. I was fairly flexible prior to booking and had only two requirements: I needed to be in Barcelona by June 12 to catch a cruise (with Semester at Sea friends), and I wanted to go to Thailand. Otherwise, I was happy to go wherever there was availability.

My final itinerary ended up being as follows.

Departure dateFlightAirport codesLayover / stopAirline
June 1, 2022Rochester, New York, to Newark, New JerseyROC – EWROne-hour layoverUnited Airlines
June 1, 2022Newark to BostonEWR – BOS12-hour layoverUnited Airlines
June 1, 22Boston to LondonBOS – LHRStopUnited Airlines
June 5, 2022London to Lisbon, PortugalLHR – LIS22-hour layoverTAP Air Portugal
June 6, 2022Lisbon to BarcelonaLIS – BCNStopTAP Air Portugal
Ground transport sector (Barcelona to Madrid)
June 21, 2022Madrid to IstanbulMAD – ISTStopTurkish Airlines
Ground transport sector (Istanbul to Kayseri, Türkiye)
June 25, 2022Kayseri to IstanbulASR – IST1.5-hour layoverTurkish Airlines
June 26, 2022Istanbul to Dhaka, BangladeshIST – DAC1.5-hour layoverTurkish Airlines
June 26, 2022Dhaka to BangkokDAC – BKKStopThai Airways International
July 2, 2022Bangkok to TokyoBKK – NRTTwo-hour layoverANA
July 3, 2022Newark to RochesterEWR – ROCFinal DestinationUnited Airlines

This itinerary followed all the ANA RTW itinerary rules:

  • You must travel in one direction, with no backtracking (West to East or East to West).
    I traveled West to East. Although ANA advertises no backtracking allowed, some backtracking is allowed within a single country (for example, my flight from Newark to Rochester) or to get to a Star Alliance hub.
  • You must fly across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans once.
    I crossed the Atlantic on my segment from Boston to London and the Pacific on my segment from Tokyo to Newark.
  • Up to eight stopovers are allowed (up to three in Europe and up to four in Japan).
    Note that ANA considers Türkiye part of its Europe region. I originally was planning to stop for a few days in Lisbon, but because I was already stopping in London, Barcelona, and Istanbul, I had to make Lisbon a layover (defined as any stop that is shorter than 24 hours) instead of a stopover.
  • The itinerary must take more than 10 days.
    Mine was over the course of 31 days.
  • Up to 12 flight sectors are allowed.
    I had a total of 12 flight sectors. Up to 12 flight sectors means up to 12 actual flights.
  • Up to four ground transport sectors are allowed.
    I had two ground transport sectors (aka open jaws). I arranged my own transport between Barcelona and Madrid (a train), as well as between Istanbul and Kayseri (an inexpensive flight).
  • You must start and end in the same country.
    I started and ended in Rochester, which meant I didn’t need any repositioning flights. That being said, one way to maximize an ANA RTW award is by starting on one coast of the U.S. and ending on the other (note that Hawaii also counts as the same country).
Rochester International Airport - ANA Round-the-World Trip

It was convenient to start the trip from my home airport in Rochester.

This entire itinerary cost 125,000 ANA Mileage Club miles, which I transferred from American Express at a 1:1 ratio, and $652.37 in taxes and fees. All the flights were in business class, except for the flights within the U.S. and the flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. I made the final booking with ANA exactly one month before departure.

Before I transferred points, I called ANA many times to firm up an itinerary. Their website is a bit clunky, so once you have a good outline of the itinerary you want, it’s best to call. Although I would often be on hold for two to three hours at a time, many of their reps are helpful and will help you look for alternative flights if you are stuck finding a way to get from one city to another.

They will also let you know the exact number of points you need so you know how many to transfer with ANA Round the World Trip.

The points transfer from Amex to ANA wasn’t instant—it took about two days to process. As soon as the points came into my ANA account, I called to book. However, not all of my planned flights were still available.

I had previously found flights from Istanbul to Bangkok with a connection in Cairo, which was no longer an option. Luckily, I had gotten an amazing agent who found a way for me to connect in Dhaka instead, which actually meant I needed fewer points than I had transferred (I had transferred 145,000 points assuming the previous itinerary would hold).

In the end, I probably made about a dozen calls to ANA customer service and spent quite a bit of time figuring out an itinerary that worked, but it was all worth it. Flying in business class around the world using just one card’s welcome offer was incredible, but it definitely spoiled me.

ANA Round-the-World Trip - long haul business-class flight

My first long haul business-class flight AND my first time being handed Champagne when boarding!

Flight Highlights

This trip allowed me to experience business class on United Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines and Thai Airways. As it was my first time flying in business class, and my first time flying any sort of long-haul flight, I enjoyed every second.

Best sleep: United Airlines

The Saks Fifth Avenue bedding was so comfortable. I really appreciated the memory foam pillow and fluffy duvet. My seat had a lot of space, and I slept like a baby on my United flights from Boston to London and from Tokyo to Newark. I also enjoyed the Away amenity kits that matched my newly purchased Away carry-on bag.

Best short-haul flight: TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal - ANA Round-the-World Trip

I was impressed with my TAP Air Portugal seat leaving London-Heathrow, considering the flight was shorter than three hours.

I was expecting a small plane for my flight from London to Lisbon (a 2.5 hour flight) with business-class seats similar to domestic first class in the U.S. I could not have been more wrong—my seat was fully lie-flat with a large TV and dedicated business-class flight attendants. This was before I learned more about how the business-class experience can differ depending on the specific plane model you’re flying on. I’m not exactly sure what plane it was, but I was impressed.

Best food: Turkish Airlines

in-flight meal on a Turkish Airlines

My in-flight meal on a Turkish Airlines flight leaving Istanbul

From the plating and the silverware to the actual taste of the food, I was impressed with Turkish Airlines. The meal included multiple courses, and everything tasted great. The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge in Istanbul was also fantastic with endless baklava and Turkish pizza.

Best service: Thai Airways

Thai Airways business-class flight

I also had so much space on my Thai Airways business-class flight, and the service was incredible!

My flight from Istanbul to Dhaka on Turkish Airlines was delayed by two hours causing me to almost miss my flight to Bangkok. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Dhaka, a Thai Airways representative was waiting to escort me to my gate. I was the last person on the plane—they had delayed the flight from Dhaka to Bangkok by 15 minutes just for me.

My escort assured me that he’d do his best to make sure my bags made it, and if they didn’t, he would send them on the next flight to get them to me as soon as possible. Sure enough, the bags didn’t make it, but they were dropped off at my hostel less than 12 hours after I landed.

Trip Highlights of my ANA Round-the-World Trip

This trip was one for the books. While there were many highlights, the top ones that come to mind are as follows.

Being in London the weekend of the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022. I flew to London because that’s what the award availability was, but I didn’t even know that the Jubilee was happening until I arrived. There were festivals going on in the streets, concerts in front of Buckingham Palace and Jubilee-themed everything (even in the Heathrow Airport’s lounges).

Jubilee street festival on Carnaby Street in Soho, London

A Jubilee street festival on Carnaby Street in Soho, London

Traveling with my mom and little brother who joined me in London, Barcelona and Madrid. I helped them redeem points to book their flights to London and home from Barcelona to match my itinerary.

Tower Bridge, London

With my mother and younger brother at Tower Bridge, London. We also met up in Barcelona, Spain.

Working a flight to Barcelona into the RTW itinerary to meet up with Semester at Sea friends for a reunion. We had a blast traveling together again!

Park Guell, Barcelona

With one of my Semester at Sea friends in Park Guell, Barcelona

Buying a $200 round-trip flight from Istanbul to Cairo and meeting my dad there. We saw the pyramids together and checked off the only remaining ancient wonder of the world.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

With my father in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Eating so much good food in Thailand. Mango sticky rice every day for breakfast, tons of bowls of kao soi and plenty of pad Thai. My stomach was very happy.

Elephant Nature Park

At the Elephant Nature Park, an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Visiting so many great lounges. Although I had lounge access with my American Express Platinum Card, I didn’t even need it much because I was flying in business pretty much everywhere. The Singapore Airlines lounge in London Heathrow Airport and the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul were my favorites.

Pro Tips

  • If you want to book a round-the-world trip, you must be flexible. I had multiple long layovers, which I used to get a taste of Boston and Lisbon, and spend some time with my brother in New York. Honestly, I didn’t mind the layovers at all because they allowed me to fly around the world in business class.
  • I found the best time to call ANA was right when their office opens in the morning. When I did this, I would typically be on hold for less than 10 minutes. Any other time I called, I would be on hold for more than two hours.
  • I tried to book another RTW trip in the fall 2023 for a trip I was going on in December but was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, taxes and fees have gone up since my 2022 trip. Additionally, now that people are traveling again, business-class availability is much harder to find. Undaunted, I still went to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and India (using points, of course).