The adventure begins Wednesday October 2nd. Nick, Stephen, and I will meetup in Washington DC to kick off the 40K to Far Away challenge. Our goal? Go as far as possible. Our budget? 40,000 points and $400. Who will pick the winner? You will.
Each of us has been assigned a transferable points currency. We are allowed to use up to 40,000 points, as follows:
- Greg the Frequent Miler (AKA me): 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- Nick: 40,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points
- Stephen: 40,000 Amex Membership Rewards points
We purposely left the objective unclear. Readers will be given the opportunity to debate who won and why; and a reader poll will ultimately decide the winner.
We expect this to be fun! And it should be a great opportunity to highlight sweet spot awards available through each of the transferable points currencies: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Amex Membership Rewards.
In fact, this contest has already led to some awesome discoveries such as the ability to book flights to Hawaii for only 7,500 Citi ThankYou points, the ability to book super-cheap fares with Chase points, and tricks for finding 5K United awards. More examples can be found below under the heading “What we’ve learned so far.”
The goal is to use the budget (40K points + $400) to go as far as possible. How do we measure success? We don’t know. We debated whether we should measure distance from origin to destination, but that didn’t seem right. After all, someone could potentially fly all the way around the world and end up 0 miles from the start. How about measuring the combined distance of each individual leg? Maybe, but should we really count it as going far if Stephen rides a merry-go-round 35,000 miles? Ultimately we decided that we’ll know success when we see it. And, if we don’t, it will still be fun debating it!
But we do need some rules, so here they are:
- Beginning with the first mode of transportation, we must account for all costs within the 40K + $400 budget. This means that we need to track payments for food, airport transfers (not counting the original transfer to get to the starting location), lodging, visas, etc.
- This is a one-way challenge. We do not need to return to the starting location. When Nick declares success standing with a flag at the South Pole, he can then return home however he wants.
- We cannot accept transit/lodging/food help from readers. In other words, we can accept help in terms of advice, but we can’t accept a ride to the airport, lodging, food, or other types of material assistance from readers.
Nick, Stephen, and I will continue to post things we’ve learned while honing our plans.
The excitement will crank up on October 2nd when the challenge officially begins. We’ll each post regularly about each flight, bus, train, and camel ride we take. We’ll post our successes and obstacles. You can expect our posts to be a combination of social media posts and blog posts. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
We’ll wrap up with summaries of how we each spent our 40K miles and how much travel (distance, quality, uniqueness, etc.) we completed. Next, we’ll open up the floor to discussion to ask readers who they think won and why. We’ll then post a summary of that debate and we’ll post a reader poll to determine the winner.
What we’ve learned so far
The challenge to come up with the best possible itinerary with 40K points has led us to many interesting discoveries. Some are brand new. Others were already known, but are relatively new to us. Here are some of the gems:
- General Travel
- Chase Ultimate Rewards:
- Etihad Guest (transferable from Amex, Citi, and Capital One)
- Turkish Miles & Smiles (transferable from Citi ThankYou Rewards):
- Book US to Hawaii for only 7.5K miles!
- Turkish partner awards can be booked via email (otherwise it’s necessary to go to a Turkish Airlines ticket office).
- Forget email, book Turkish awards over the phone (7.5K each way)
- United MileagePlus:
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (transferable from Amex, Chase, and Citi):
Recent contest updates
- July 29: Greg booked most of his flights!
- July 22: Greg finally booked one leg of his journey
- July 5: Nick revealed that he was able to book an award to Hawaii for only 7.5K Turkish miles (found here)!
- July 3: Nick has his first and last flights booked and has “one in the middle on hold”. I’ve heard bits and pieces of Nick’s scheming and it has me a bit worried. I don’t know if he’ll beat me, but I know he’s going far. Very far.
- July 3: Greg still hasn’t booked anything. I’ve worked out many scenarios, but haven’t yet picked the winning hand.
- June 30: Stephen has booked his first flight! Stephen was first in the group to book anything. I’m looking forward to finding out where he’s going. Has Stephen found a magical route that will beat Nick and me?
What about the environment?
Flying around the world for no reason other than to declare victory may be fun, but it’s arguably not so good for the environment. To help mitigate this issue, Frequent Miler (the business) will purchase carbon offsets greater than the amount of damage estimated from our travels.
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