Why this trip?
Audrey and I have two children:
- Alexandra – 4 and a half years old
- Arthur – 2 and a half years old
Alexandra will be leaving daycare next September to start school, which means less flexibility to go on trips.
We are frequent travellers, as are our children. After all, they’ve already done a “mini-world tour” passing through France, Vietnam, Hong Kong and San Francisco in 2018.
I have been working on the “milesopedia project” since Alexandra was born almost 5 years ago. I might as well tell you that this is my third child to whom I devote a lot of time: it’s not a classic 9-to-5 job, but a real entrepreneurial job, evenings and weekends included. The community can attest to that!
This leaves little time for real family life.
We adjusted our lives accordingly: in December 2018, I quit my comfortable job to devote myself fully to milesopedia. And Audrey chose to leave her job as a salaried pharmacist to become a substitute pharmacist so that she could control her schedule and help me with this project.
One Saturday afternoon in April 2019, when Alexandra was about to turn 4, she told me this:
Dad, can you stop milesopedia and play with Arthur and I for a little bit?Alexandra
From this reflection was born the idea of leaving for several months, all 4 of us, to find ourselves as a family and break our routine.
Several factors impacted our choice of destinations.
If you’re going to travel for 5 months, you might as well do it during the Canadian winter! So we decided to travel between December and April.
Once the travel period was decided on, we had to decide on where to go. December is a great time to visit the southern hemisphere. After thinking about South America for a while, we chose South Africa as our first stop. It was indeed easier to reach Asia and Oceania from South Africa than South America.
For the end of our trip, in March-April, we turned our attention to Japan and South Korea in order to take advantage of the spring period, associated with cherry blossom.
Between these two fixed points of our trip, we needed a “hub” from which we could explore a “hot spot” between January and March. Singapore naturally stood out (especially since we have family living there).
Setting up the itinerary
Steps via Aeroplan
So in May 2019, I booked a mini-world-tour ticket with Aeroplan, as it was then allowed:
- A first stop in South Africa
- A second stop in Singapore
- A third stop in Taipei (destination)
Why Taipei and not Japan? It was difficult to find 4 seats – in business class – leaving Japan in spring. EVA Air offers a 14-hour flight from Taipei to Toronto with no carrier surcharges via Aeroplan. And 4 seats were available.
Taipei would be our base in Asia and our point of return to Canada.
Here are the airlines used for this itinerary with Aeroplan Miles:
With the exception of Air Canada, these are only airlines that do not charge a carrier surcharge when using Aeroplan Miles.
Thus, the cost of the itinerary, per person, in business class was:
- 150,000 Aeroplan Miles (Asia Rate 1: Taiwan)
- 216.52 in taxes (including $30 in telephone booking fees)
That’s a total of 600,000 Aeroplan Miles and $866.08 for 4 people. It’s ridiculous for a ticket of this type in business class!
The other steps
On our 5-month world tour, we left room over 3 months to modulate our itinerary according to our children. We had never travelled with them for so long, so it was difficult to know their limits.
So, we based ourselves in Singapore/Kuala Lumpur to explore the region according to them:
- Malaysia / Langkawi
- New Zealand
We will of course have to make choices: at the time of writing this article, we have some doubts about their capacity to endure the long hours of driving “imposed” by a trip to New Zealand and their interest for a “100% nature” trip.
Other points used
On this trip, beyond the Aeroplan Miles used for the main itinerary, we’ll be using different point & mile currencies.
British Airways Executive Club Avios
British Airways Executive Club is an easily accessible program in North America.
In Canada, for example, you can earn British Airways Executive Club Avios miles:
- by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points
- by transferring HSBC Rewards Points
- by transferring RBC points
- by earning them with the RBC British Airways credit card
Avios are particularly useful in different parts of the world, including Asia and Australia.
So, we have already booked some of our flights for our Asia trip with our Avios miles:
- in Japan
- between Tokyo and Seoul
- between Seoul and Taipei
And we’re planning to use it for some flights with Qantas in Australia, and eventually between Australia and New Zealand.
Our Avios miles were earned primarily through the American Express Membership Rewards program and specifically our American ExpressMD Gold Rewards Cards.
Over the course of our nearly 150-day journey, we will visit many hotels and airbnb accommodations.
In order to reduce the cost of our journey, redeeming points will be very useful!
Marriott Bonvoy points
Marriott Bonvoy is our preferred hotel program for 3 reasons:
- it’s easy to earn Marriott Bonvoy points in North America
- when you use points for 5 nights, you only pay for 4, which makes it possible to reduce the bill
- its status provides some very practical benefits for families like us (more on that later)
There are many ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy points:
- with welcome bonuses from the two credit cards linked to the program
- with purchases made with these cards
- with expenses and stays in the group’s hotels
- by transferring Membership Rewards points from the 6 American Express cards participating in the program
We estimate that about 60 nights during our journey will be fully paid for by the points.
For example, in South Africa, the majority of the hotels we visited cost between 5,000 and 10,000 points per night! Find out more about this country in this article.
Best Western Rewards points
Between the two of us, we have earned- for free – over 100,000 Best Western Rewards points. These come exclusively from the MastercardMD Best Western RewardsMD credit card welcome bonuses that we have each had several times over the past few years.
We’ve combined all the points into one account as Best Western Rewards allows for free.
So now is the time to use those Best Western Rewards points!
Photo reports will progressively come on milesopedia to tell you the hotels we’ve been to: we expect at least 1 week of our trip to be covered by these points.
Hilton Honors points
Hilton Honors does not offer any credit card in Canada that lets you earn points directly.
Of course, it is still possible to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors points, but the transfer rate is not optimal.
We still earned Hilton Honors points in two ways:
- via credit cards offered in the United States
- by purchasing Hilton Honors points during promotional periods
In addition, with the Platinum CardMD from American Express, we have Gold Hilton Honors status, which has a definite advantage when traveling with a family: free breakfasts.
We estimate that we will stay at Hilton hotels for about 15 nights on our trip. To learn more about the benefits of the American Express Platinum Card, check out this article.
IHG Rewards Club does not offer credit cards in Canada that earn points directly. And it is not possible to earn them via transfer.
We earned IHG points by purchasing them during promotional periods and in anticipation of this trip, with the intention of taking advantage of the PointBreaks promotion.
This way, we can have some points in reserve for a few nights.
Points for Airbnb
We will not only stay in hotels during our trip! Indeed, for a few long stays or in some destinations, we will book Airbnb accommodations.
To do this, you can use points from certain loyalty programs to offset the expense on Airbnb:
The travel points
Travel points offered by certain loyalty programs can be used to save on many travel-related expenses:
- Car rentals
- Transportation costs (train, plane, boat)
Here are the different types of points that we also have in the bank.
BMO Rewards points
Thanks to welcome bonuses and spending on our BMO Rewards credit cards, we each have close to 100,000 BMO Rewards points, worth over $700.
Nearly $1,500 will be available to cover select car rentals by using our points through the BMO Rewards portal. More details on how to use BMO Rewards points here.
With the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard, we’ll also have great insurance for those car rentals with our points. Read more about the card’s insurance here.
American Express Membership Rewards points
While I prefer to transfer my Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan / Avios miles or my Select Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy points, I reserve the opportunity to use them to cover certain travel expenses such as Airbnb or airfare on certain low cost airlines.
It is therefore a currency that I treasure because of its flexibility.
HSBC Rewards points
Although we have been HSBC Premier customers since we arrived in Canada (which made it easier for us to get a bank account in this country), the HSBC Rewards program is new for us.
In order to diversify our points & miles accumulation, we decided to apply when we saw an excellent promotion on the HSBC World Elite card.
HSBC Rewards points can be redeemed for any travel purchase (Airbnb, plane ticket…) via a fixed price schedule. They can also be transferred to 3 airline loyalty programs including the British Airways Executive Club.
We will use these points especially for our Airbnb bookings or low cost airline tickets in Asia.
Scotia Bonus Points
With our multiple Scotia Rewards cards, we each have close to 100,000 Scotia Rewards points, which is worth approximately $1,000.
So here we have a budget of nearly $2,000 that can be used on Airbnb rentals or transportation.
AIR MILES Rewards
Finally, AIR MILES Dream Miles.
I prefer to use our AIR MILES Dream Miles for short-haul flights within North America. However, we do have about 15,000 Dream Miles that could be useful for some hotel reservations!
These miles were earned in just a few months with credit card welcome bonuses following our 2019 game plan!
With the American Express Platinum Card, we have earned several statuses that will provide us with undeniable benefits.
And since we each have our own card, we can enjoy the benefits with our children, especially for access to airport lounges.
- Free unlimited access to Priority Pass airport lounges
- Hilton Honors Gold status (free breakfast at all Hilton hotels)
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold status (not helpful as I have Titanium status due to our 2018-2019 stays)
In addition to free unlimited airport lounge access (especially useful when we travel to Asia on low-cost flights since much of the international itinerary will be in business class), our most valuable benefit will be Marriott Bonvoy’s Titanium status.
In fact, from the Platinum status (50 nights per year), the benefits are already exceptional:
- Free breakfast in most hotels
- Access to hotel lounges
- Upgrade to a suite
- Early check-in (12pm)
- Late check-out (4pm)
- High speed Wi-Fi access
With children, all these advantages are important:
- The breakfasts in Marriott hotels can easily allow us to hold until the end of the day, allowing us to lower the meal budget
- Having access to the lounges will allow us to eat in the evening and to have free access to different drinks, including milk (for Arthur) and alcohol (for Dad / Mom) 🙂
- Upgrading allows for larger rooms so that children can have fun and parents can have privacy
- The early check-in will eventually allow usto take a nap… while the late check-out will allow us to take a shower after visiting the city and before taking the plane back
- High speed Wi-Fi access… for Netflix!
If there is one question that I am frequently asked in the Facebook group, it is this one:
What credit cards will you use during your 5 months of travel?
With nearly fifteen active cards at the time of our departure, we were spoilt for choice. And very often, the cards used ed to PLAN our trip, are different from those used ON the trip.
This is our strategy!
For restaurants and grocery stores
Whenever possible, we use our American Express Cobalt Card for all our restaurant and grocery store expenses.
This card earns 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on these types of purchases. Even though it charges a 2.5% conversion fee for transactions in foreign currencies, it’s a big win because of the flexibility of the Membership Rewards points earned.
For the hotels, we will use the credit card linked to the loyalty program: this is what allows us to earn as many points as possible.
In this article, I showed how it works with the Marriott Bonvoy program: all the expenses in a hotel should be carried on your room to enable you to earn the most points possible. Then later pay for that with the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card, since it earns 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar for purchases at Marriott hotels!
Here are the 3 cards that we will use mainly for the hotels:
For all other purchases
For all other purchases that we will make in the different countries we will visit, we will use the HSBC World Elite Mastercard or the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* CardThese two credit cards do not charge any conversion fees for foreign currency transactions. That’s a saving of 2.5% on every purchase!
And the fact that we have a MASTERCARD and a VISA card in our wallet allows us to be prepared for any eventuality. Indeed, we have already had one or the other refused.
For car rental deposits
We have limits of about $10,000 on each of our credit cards. However, some car rental agencies will hold up to $5,000 as a deposit on the credit card for the duration of the rental (even 1 week to 10 days beyond the rental).
To get around this, we use the American Express PlatinumMD Card when we pay for our rentals (i.e., when we do not use our points).
This card is a payment card: it has no limit (American Express sets a limit based on your relationship with the issuer and your past purchases, you can simulate a purchase in your account to test your limit).
This allows us not to tie up our other credit cards with our car rental deposits!
Also, unlike most other cards covering vehicles up to $60,000, the Platinum Card® from American Express covers up to $85,000, which can make a difference in some countries.
For cash withdrawals
For cash withdrawals, we will use our HSBC Premier debit card (no conversion fees for foreign currency transactions, no ATM withdrawal fees).
We also brought our Tangerine debit card as well as other debit cards from “neo-banks”: Revolut and Transferwise (obtained in France).
This way we are prepared for all eventualities!
For more information on how to save money abroad, check out this article!
Follow us on this world tour
During this family world tour, we will share our experiences in different ways:
And of course, via articles on the site! Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss anything!
Here is our series of articles:
Our friends Jessica, Poly and their children from The Wonderlusters have greatly inspired us, as they left for 14 months for an incredible world tour: We invite you to read their articles, especially their review.
Going on a trip like this with our children is an incredible opportunity that we too will have the chance to experience over the next few months. Not everything will be easy, that’s for sure, but such is the case with the life of a family every day. We hope to come out of it more united, more complicit, and somehow better.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in comments of our articles, on the forum or in the facebook group!