Vote for your favorite 40K to Far Away trip! [Update: the votes are in]

Frequent Miler's 2019 40K to Far Away Challenge is done! Greg, Nick, and Stephen competed to see who could go farthest with 40,000 points and $400! Click here for contest results and next steps.

Who won the 40K to Far Away challenge?  You’ll find the results of the voting poll at the bottom of this post.  Voting was open until Sunday October 20th at 10pm ET.

Greg Nick Stephen
Distance Traveled (click here for details)
>18,000 miles ~16,061 miles ~13,394 miles
Spend
40,000 points
$397.08
Details here
23,500 points
$398.70
Details here
40,000 points
$382.44
Details here
Notable Accomplishments

Crossed African continent twice

27-hour sleeper car train journey across South Africa

Way under budget on points (when considering the trip as outlined here and in the link above)

Farthest geographical point from starting location (Brisbane)

Round trip itinerary

Two weeks travel

Visited 6 countries & 9 cities

Destinations
Washington DC, Madrid,Senegal, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Seychelles Hawaii, Tokyo-Narita, Brisbane Madrid, Boom, Paris, London, Guildford UK, Copenhagen, Atlantic City, Washington DC, Richmond VA
Major Activities

2 self-walk tours

African artisan market

Wine tasting

Penguins!

Lanikai Pillboxes hike

Strolling Naritasan Park

Japanese capsule hotel experience

Brisbane Eat Street Northshore

2 troll hunts

Segway tour

4 self-walk tours

Modes of Transport
Plane, city bus, coach, subway, light rail, walk, boat, taxi, car, sleeper train Plane, city bus, train, walk, Uber Coach, city bus, plane, walk, car, scooter, ferry, tram, Uber, subway, light rail, Segway, shuttle bus, paddleboat ferry
Sleep Summary
3 nights in beds, 1 night on comfy couch, 3 nights on flights 1 night in capsule hotel, 2 nights on planes (one with entire plane row to himself), 1 night at the airport 6 nights in beds, 4 nights in airport, 3 nights on flights/buses
Food Highlights
Spanish dinner in Madrid, Senegalese lunch in Dakar, Chef prepared breakfast in Jo’burg, Wine tasting in Cape Town Shave ice in Hawaii, Ramen in Tokyo, Chocolate fondue-covered brownies and strawberries while listening to jazz in Brisbane Empanadas in Madrid, Curryworst in Boom, Ham baguette in Paris, Sausage roll in London, Scones & clotted cream in UK, Kylling frikadeller & Danish pastries in Copenhagen, Casino buffet in Atlantic City
Why Greg should win…
Why Nick should win…
Why Stephen should win…
I used my points creatively and pushed them to their limits. Within the budget I traversed the African continent twice and was the only one to travel long distance by a mode of transport other than plane. I had amazing experiences and made new friends. I ate well and slept well. I truly enjoyed touring Madrid and Africa, and ending up in the Seychelles was awesome. For more, see: 10 reasons to vote for Greg. I went over budget. It’s true.  But if you look at the trip prior to my going over budget, you’ll see that my trip rocked. I visited Hawaii, Tokyo, and Brisbane for only 23,500 points! For details, see: How Nick can steal your vote for #40KFaraway champ. I traveled for twice as long as Greg & Nick, visited 9 cities in 6 countries, made it back home within my budget, went troll hunting twice and tried food from every place I visited, all while spending the least amount of money and hopefully putting together a trip that you yourself might want to take. See also: 15 Reasons Stephen Should Win

Reminder of the Rules

The goal was to use the budget (40K points + $400) to go as far as possible.  How do we measure success?  We don’t know.  Do we win by ending up the farthest from the starting location?  Do we win by traveling the farthest distances when adding up every segment?  Do we win by experiencing the most things?  Do we win by having the most desirable trip?  The answer is up to our readers.  The winner will be picked by vote.

But we did need some rules, so here they were:

  • Beginning with the first mode of transportation, we must account for all costs within the 40K + $400 budget.  This means that we needed to track payments for food, airport transfers (not counting the original transfer to get to the starting location), lodging, visas, etc.
  • This was a one-way challenge.  We did not need to return to the starting location.
  • We could not accept transit/lodging/food help from readers.  In other words, we could 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.  Note that accepting help from friends or relatives along the way was fine as long as it was the type of thing that would normally happen when traveling.

Vote Now Results

Now that you’ve reviewed each of our trips and read our posts, please pick a winner below.  The poll will remain open until Sunday October 20th at 10pm ET.

Who do you think won the 40K to Far Away challenge?

  • Greg (51%, 567 Votes)
  • Stephen (31%, 345 Votes)
  • Nick (19%, 210 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,122

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Last updated on October 25th, 2019

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Charlie
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Charlie

One question before voting – Nick mentions he went over budget (in his summer) but the part at the top says he was under budget? I have not read all the posts yet but did I miss something or does one of those sections need updating?

Ed. C
Guest
Ed. C

Needs updating. Nick spent $436 according to his trip report.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Had to go with Nick! In fact, Nick I want to tell you you really won me over with this trip! I have read all of your posts since joining FM and I have to say that you have really become my favorite ‘voice’ in this space (sorry Greg!) I especially enjoyed your wholesome picture with your son at the end of the trip. A truly wholesome moment I’m sure you will never forget!

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Oh my God I voted and I looked If you don’t vote Don’t Complain ..Then if ur guy doesn’t win leave the winner alone and Go On with ur life. The real winner or loser here is the P-Lounge Pass . Look at what they looted let’s hope no CEO’s are watching this Blog or we will loose another benefit . Could be another round of airlines devaluations or fee increases especially for the South Pacific routes.
CHEERs

Dan C
Guest
Dan C

I’m torn on this one. I voted for Greg although I’m not interested in his trip. But at least he used miles. If Stephen had used miles I would have voted for him but the fact that he didn’t book any flights with miles was a deal breaker for me. I do feel that Stephen was the most true to the challenge in that his trip was a round trip versus the one way trips of Nick and Greg. The one way trips essentially mean that you need double the miles to actually make those trips work, which is a lot different than the typical sign-up bonus one might get. Nick went over-budget by a significant amount so as much as I’d love to go to the destinations he visited, that feels disqualifying to me.

luckyladyd
Guest
luckyladyd

Have to agree with Dan C. Have to give it to Greg, as he seemed the most comfortable and used miles. (and PENGUINS!) Loved all the stuff Stephen did, and yes, he did get back “home”. That seems like it should have been part of the game. Can’t imagine doing what Nick did. It just seems uncomfortable and very physically challenging. Kudos that he made it through and said it was fun, but it wouldn’t be fun for me.

bccc
Guest
bccc

From the rules:

This was a one-way challenge. We did not need to return to the starting location.

Dan C.
Guest
Dan C.

Understood that this was allowed by the rules but when this started the discussion was around showing what is possible with a standard sign up bonus. No one I know is only looking to travel one way and be stuck in Africa or the South Pacific.

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

I saw quite a few arguments about the importance of round trip. While it is one of many aspects to evaluate each trip, how far the competitors can go should be the most important aspect. After all, it is called #40kfaraway, not #40kroundtrip. Greg, Nick and Stephen all agreed from the beginning that if you really want to have a round trip, you can double the budget here and reverse the itinerary. Besides if the rule required round trip, Greg and Nick will plan differently. In addition, I do not know how interesting the challenge will be if it has to be round trip. Nick cannot even get to Tokyo. Greg will probably stop at Madrid and cannot showcase the united excursion perk. I may be wrong, but they may be all end up roaming in Europe riding buses if round trip is the priority.

MichaelR
Guest
MichaelR

This was a great idea and I fully enjoyed all reports. It goes to show that’s possible using miles or not. I narrowly voted for Greg as he maintained closest to the original challenge in my mind. However, Nick and Stephen’s trips were just as inspiring and accomplished.

losingtrader
Guest
losingtrader

I abstain. Voting for any of you only encourages economy travel. In fact, I’m being triggered by a 27 hour train ride, among other things. It’s time for a Xanax.

jeph36
Guest
jeph36

I learned something different from each traveler on this journey, and can take lessons from each going forward. Getting max travel (rather than max travel experiences)

Nick – IMO the Hawaii-via-Turkish is the gem of the whole contest. That alone has me considering if I should get into the TYP game which has not been my focus at all. So this trip has the potential to trigger the biggest change in my approach to collecting points/miles. If the total trip to Niue had been on the table, I think Nick would have my vote … but only to Brisbane ???
Greg – The couch surfing approach really resonates with me. I generally dislike hotels, or at least the value proposition they offer, and just want a secure place to sleep/shower. This certainly has the potential to change my default when traveling solo away from cheap Airbnbs. But the bigger thing I learned from Greg was a much better understanding of the Excursionist perk for United. I had seen and read about it a little in the past … but now that I really see it in action I understand its potential value. And Africa just seems more adventurous than the others (perhaps because I have never been).
Stephen – The complaint about Stephen converting all points to USD is unfounded IMO. Perhaps he found that the best way to use MR for cheap-skate travel in a fairly narrow time window is via this method and, if so, that is a valuable lesson for me. For my crew of 6 we have found that using 1.5 cents/point (using UR or Altitude Reserve) to be more economical when traveling 2x to Europe and to Australia than to try getting award flights for 6 people for semi-limited dates due to school dates or similar. One of the values of some points is their ability to convert to cash or “cash”, so IMO that should be fair game. And I like the trolls which have me already thinking about easy domestic destinations to visit that I would not have otherwise considered.

So my vote goes to … TBD. I will vote by the end of the day.

Janet Weiden
Guest
Janet Weiden

Congratulations to all three. What an imaginative and clever journey taken by each of you. It was fun learning about each new location and your creative ways of arriving at your destinations. This challenge pushed you to find new travel opportunities and figure out how to communicate complicated efforts. Now I hope you each get to celebrate your achievements.

Reed
Guest
Reed

Really enjoyed following all 3 adventures. Tough call on the vote. I liked Nick’s trip the most and found myself pulling for him, and would have voted for him if not so far over budget. Greg’s trip was great but I was not crazy about his use of couch surfing and friends for lodging, although within your rules. I liked Stephen’s trip the least and did not like that he leaned on family for part of the trip, but he stretched his resources a long way for a long time and made the most compelling case for winning. If you try this again, maybe you can do something more normal about the lodging to level the playing field and demonstrate the best use of points for traveling the world. I am guessing that many (most?) of your readers are looking to learn from you about using miles/points for flights but may not have friends in other countries or be willing to sleep in airports, couch surf or sleep in a coffin. That said, thanks for sharing the creative approaches by all 3 of you. Good entertainment!

Shae Pepper
Guest
Shae Pepper

I’m not sure I’d say that Stephen ‘leaned on family for part of the trip’ he had one dinner, one bed and one trip to the airport. Probably less than 12 hours of two weeks. And he did his laundry there for free. The other guys didn’t need to do laundry since Greg was only gone 6 days and Nick’s new itinerary stopped at 4-5 days. They didn’t stock him up with snacks or other things (I know bc I requested candy from the UK which was sadly forgotten even though I selflessly cared for our dog for 2 whole weeks LOL) And friends or family for one night was allowed in the original rules, just not readers. Just saying… Mrs. Stephen.

Reed
Guest
Reed

Well put Shae, and glad you are defending your guy! But I did vote for him in spite of my comment. My point was that each player had some unaccounted for benefits (Greg in Cape Town and Nick in Auckland) which most of us would not have available.

P.S. Welcome to WV, and good luck with Bridge Day. You should really enjoy it, and the weather forecast looks good. Be sure to try some pepperoni rolls.

Shae Pepper
Guest
Shae Pepper

I’m excited for Saturday for sure. Glad you voted correctly 😉

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Shae
No candy sleep on the floor Bloke after the first nite . Remember the dog is yours too I never had a bad time with any dog enjoy them ..
CHEERs

P L
Guest
P L

I voted for you Greg!
It’ll be great to see a summary post of best learnings from the three players in the #40kfaraway challenge. Such as 1) using Turkish on UA to Hawaii 2) transferring points from one program to another and getting an awesome redemption for y miles, etc. 🙂

Samuel Palmer
Guest
Samuel Palmer

I am already looking forward to next year’s challenge. Seriously!!! What a valuable real world adventure. We all learned tons. Thank you. 2020’s challenge should be even better!!!

Liam Ran
Guest
Liam Ran

I love your adventures!

I would like each of you to take turns on using UR, MR, and TY points. Will there be another challenge? I hope you’ll do at least two more challenges. That would keep us engaging into your website!

trackback

[…] Please click over to this post to read a summary of our our trips and to vote: Vote for your favorite 40K to Far Away trip! […]

Susan
Guest
Susan

These days it’s rarer than ever to find original, useful and entertaining points and miles content in the blogosphere. Thank you to all three of you for this phenomenal series.

Russ
Guest
Russ

I voted Stephen. I can’t stand that Nick cooked the books, though I did like his posts best. I guess I originally missed that they didn’t have to make it home, but c’mon, really? That knocks Greg out too. Plus I like that Stephen converted his MRs for cash to get the cheapest possible fares – something I’ve been talking about for years that people gloss over in their quests for fake high cpp values in F.

Is Europe Far Away?
Guest
Is Europe Far Away?

Stephen could have flown to Madrid from a bunch of east cost cities for 13k MR during the 40% MR promo to Avios that they run every year. Blows away any cash redemption, especially since he stated he “could not find one-way” and the rules were one way only and paid $300+. So as far as Stephen got is Western Europe. That’s not far-away, sorry. Cheap cash flights to Europe can be found anytime on a bunch of blogs. His trip was neither interesting nor creative to me; as you’ll find these sorts of trips on backpacker blogs regularly.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I wish I could vote for all three. It was a fun challenge and each was creative and really pushed some of their boundaries. I liked how the emphasis was on travel for a typical low income person, which most bloggers don’t market to. It’s a very small subset of people who have massive points to only fly first class and stay in resorts. Stephen’s trip resonated a lot because he spent a relatively good chunk of time in each place mostly walking, which is the best way to build a relationship with a place. I’ve done a few far flung trips like Nick and Greg did, at least half for the reason I could, but it was a little bit of travel whiplash. With this 40k challenge, hats off to all three of you for doing the most exciting blogging of the year. It wasn’t theoretical, you made it real.

Joey
Guest
Joey

Voted for you Nick! I do wish though that all three of you used the same transferable currency to make the challenge more fair.

Captain Greg
Guest
Captain Greg

Maybe the next challenge! I bet the the worry is that they’d all end up doing close to the same thing. Like if it was TY points, they might all start by going to Hawaii, etc.

Ben
Guest
Ben

All three of you guys did a great job using the points in creative and compelling ways. I really appreciate the out of the box thinking to even do this challenge. Things like this clearly raise this blog above the rest, who typically resort to hawking referral links in 3 posts a day. It is tough to vote for a single winner when all three trips were pretty cool. Nick’s trip was awesome, but I do feel like the overspending disqualifies it. Stephen’s trip length was downright impressive. Kudos for really squeezing the absolute most out of your resources. Greg’s trip was awesome and I loved the illustration of the Excursionist Perks, plus actually visiting a lot of very far-flung places. I’m going with Greg!

Joe
Guest
Joe

I can only vote once? LoL. To be honest, it’s a tough one. I really enjoyed following all 3 of your trips. Please have another challenge soon. This is so creative and original, I am sure other bloggers are gonna copy and try to do this type of challenges. None the less, well done FM TEAM!

Captain Greg
Guest
Captain Greg

This was such a great idea and competition! Frequent Miler is by far my favorite travel/points blog. There’s no comparison. Greg, Nick and Stephen seem to know how to play the game better than anyone else, and this challenge was a great showing of their expertise. I couldn’t help but be totally engrossed in the developments of each trip, and I can’t help but write a thorough analysis (that probably no one will read!) from a viewer’s perspective. I hope you don’t take any of my cons personally; I am just trying to give some honest thoughts from an outsider’s perspective. So, here are my pros and cons from each trip and how I ultimately decided who won my vote:

Nick:
Pros: He hit 3 major tourist destinations on 3 different continents (if we say his trip ended in Brisbane). He only used about half of his points. If we include his whole trip (with going a few hundred bucks over), he had the best itinerary (imo) and ended at the coolest, most remote destination (Niue).
Cons: It felt like his trip could’ve auditioned for “A Series of Unfortunate Events, part 2:” falling asleep on bus in Hawaii with drunk people onboard, having to sleep on a concrete slab because the Honolulu airport wasn’t open, getting stuck in the Bangkok airport… If we include the post-Brisbane time, the 30 mile bike ride sounded miserable and he ended up missing a ferry to somewhere else he wanted to go. It also felt a little bit like he was always hurrying to get somewhere without being able to completely enjoy where he was: his evening hike on Oahu was cut short, the bike ride to the missed ferry, etc. And then the final unfortunate event was the issues with the money (missing out on the newegg deal and spending too much) which resulted in him having to say that his trip ended in Brisbane.

Stephen:
Pros: I handicapped Stephen as the winner before the challenge started when I found out he would be traveling for twice as long as Nick/Greg. That was very impressive. The price on the RT Europe flight was an incredible steal. I thought Stephen had the details sorted out the best, which can be pretty important (as Nick learned the hard way). I like how he took buses around Europe a number of times for the triple benefit: cheapness, a longer time in a seat to sleep (than a plane) and the fact that they dropped you off in the center of each city. It’s really impressive that he included getting back home as part of his trip, and I also think Stephen did a really good job of experiencing each place (and not just passing through).
Cons: I don’t know how he survived the time in Europe. I feel like each night’s sleep there consisted of an uncomfortable 3 hour bus ride other than 2 nights in England. Although Europe is really cool to visit, Stephen’s trip felt like the least exciting to me (personally) since I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and if the goal is to go as far away as possible, clearly Greg and Nick outdid him in that sense. I also tried to put myself in each person’s position as if I was the one traveling; Stephen’s trip was probably the most personal which made it difficult for me to see myself doing the same sort of itinerary. It was a sneaky move to stay with his family and the troll hunts seemed cool, but I also think it’s hard to get that to appeal to the broad range of readers. I feel bad holding those things against him (only staying in Europe/U.S., and his trip being specific to his personal interests), but it did create a little bit of a disconnect for me because I wouldn’t be as excited to do those things.

Greg:
Pros: I thought it was very smart to go to Africa where you can get a lot more out of $400 than in many other places. The couch surfing idea was great and it really worked out for him. It seems like he had the most comfortable trip since he got a bed/couch every time he wasn’t on a plane. I also think Greg’s adventure sounded like the most fun. Maybe it’s because he built enough time in for any mishaps, but the train/bus in South Africa sounded more like an experience than a hindrance. He had a great emphasis on meeting people too (whether his couch surfing hosts, people on the train, people in markets, etc), and to me half the fun in traveling is meeting different people; It seemed like Greg was the only one trying to do that. Finally, the private chef at sunrise was the most baller move out of all 3 trips. While everyone is emphasizing trying to squeeze every last cent out of every dollar, I thought it was a killer move for Greg to “splurge” $20 to get a chef to make him a sunrise breakfast at a beautiful location.
Cons: I feel like all Greg did in Madrid was visit a WeWork. Yes, I know he was planning on taking a free tour that was cancelled and he still ended up doing half of a 4 hour walking tour, but Madrid was the one place where we could actually compare experiences between two people and it sure seemed like Stephen did a lot more. The other negative to Greg’s trip was that he had to use 20k for 2 excursionist perks without incorporating those 20k flights into his itinerary (turning around on the same plane in WV doesn’t really count if you don’t do anything there and take a flight straight back to where you came from). I’m guessing he tried to figure out a way to work that 20k into his actual itinerary to help him advance along his trip but couldn’t make it happen. Still, it’s a negative when the actual flights purchased with the 20k don’t add to your adventure (even if the excursionist perks from the purchases do).

So, who won? Ultimately, I voted by asking myself this simple question: If I had the opportunity to repeat one of these trips exactly, which one would it be? To me, it has to be Greg’s trip. While I’m sure everyone’s trip was exhausting, it seemed like Greg’s was the most enjoyable while also traveling quite a far distance and visiting some incredible places.

Thanks so much for competing in this Greg, Nick and Stephen! I was so impressed with how much each of you embraced this challenge. It was so entertaining to follow along and I’m sure it has given all of you stories you’ll be telling for a long time! (“Remember that time I slept on a concrete slab outside the Honolulu airport…”)

Peter
Guest
Peter

I’d like to vote for this comment more than once.

Kyle N
Guest
Kyle N

My vote is for this to just end so I don’t have to keep deleting this junk from my inbox

Captain Greg
Guest
Captain Greg

“unsubscribe” is always an option…

Raghu Narayanan
Guest
Raghu Narayanan

I voted. But more than anything else, this blog is the winner. This is one of a kind, the three of you are pioneers in this space.
Cheers, next up $2000 and 120K miles in premium cabin and luxury hotels. That would echo what the blog readers are aspiring for
— Raghu

Erika Hamilton
Guest
Erika Hamilton

Voted for Greg because because he made it to the Seychelles– one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Josh
Guest
Josh

This was difficult! Both Greg and Nick’s trips definitely complied with the parameters of the challenge, but Stephen definitely should get some brownie points for not only going far but also making it back “home”

Justin
Guest
Justin

While I enjoyed seeing how far and how much you guys could do on limited budgets, I think a better challenge, from a readers perspective, would be one where you have to pay for all travel and lodging (no freebies) but you can have whatever food and activity budgets you want. It’s easy for readers to adjust budgets for food and activities according to their own wants but taking advantage of the Excursionist Perk and finding 7500 point flights to Hawaii is where most of us can use inspiration.

JB San Diego
Guest
JB San Diego

Now that you guys are done, head on over to Doctor of Credit for major breakthrough, to say the least, on getting the Amx Plat 60K without the Once in a Lifetime verbiage!

Jak
Guest
Jak

I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures and the planning. I also like that each person took a different approach to the challenge, giving different perspectives to the same problem. The fact that the winning criteria is up to the reader also makes it fun because each person can vote based on what moved them most. Here’s my breakdown of each approach.

Stephen: Someone pointed out that his trip was the kind backpackers have been doing for decades: bumming around Europe on the cheap. While he did visit the most countries, that’s because the EU and close proximity of countries make it easier to do. I’m sure a dedicated backpacker could have stretched $900 into 4-6 weeks if they really wanted. Also, I liked the intrigue of the “far away” part of the challenge. Stephen ended up back home and didn’t really make it that “far away”. Not using the points for redemptions is disappointing too.

Nick: I like the fact that he went from Hawaii to Japan to Australia. Too bad he couldn’t stay within budget. I think staying with the wife in NZ was a little too far past the “family” rule. Taking it to the extreme, he could have had friends or family stationed all along the route so he could stay with them. I know this is far-fetched and wouldn’t happen. That said, I’m using Brisbane as his final stop so this point is moot anyway. (If you do this again, I think services like Grabr shouldn’t be allowed. The budget should be the budget and not include additional income.) I think if Nick was able to stay within budget, he would have gotten my vote.

Greg: Getting to Africa and taking a sleeper train for $50? That’s pretty impressive. Very creative use of the excursionist perk. In my mind I imagined far away and exotic locales, and this trip met that criteria. In addition Greg got to meet interesting people and had some adventures along the way.

All in all, a very enjoyable series. Congrats!

Larry
Guest
Larry

It was hard to pick one. I really enjoyed this thing.

Noms
Guest
Noms

Yet again the three of you have displayed why this blog is simply awesome. Each of you deserves kudos for the amazing itineraries you conceived and actually executed, showing the rest of us what can be possible with some imagination and determination. Congrats to each of you!

Jeff Hancock
Guest
Jeff Hancock

Can’t believe Nick is getting beaten like a drum in the voting. Has to be due to the budget.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Jeff
Ur wrong Nick joined the Yacht Club like I did too people don’t like people who do that . I hope to meet him there in January or the next I brought a 2 year membership . He had Nice (Fr.) photos too.
CHEERs

winni3
Guest
winni3

Hands down, in my opinion, Greg won this contest. As a small and young looking woman, the most important things I think about when I plan trips is to make sure I will be safe. Where will I sleep? Will I feel safe? Will I enjoy the stay? I am open to stepping outside of my comfort zone but I am not willing to give up my safety. An equally important question to me is if I will have an opportunity to feel rested and fed well at the end of the trip. Greg’s creative use of couchsurfing really hit it home for me. Greg absolutely killed it in my opinion.

This is not to say I did not enjoy reading about Nick and Stephen’s posts. The troll hunting part (Stephen) and the out of breath pics (Nick) are reasons why I keep coming back to Frequent Miler.

I hope to see you guys do a second round of 40k Faraway.

Club Toss
Guest
Club Toss

Great bit guys. All three are truly impressive. Congrats on successful trips. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Bobby
Guest
Bobby

First: Well done all of you!

I won’t say who my vote went to. It doesn’t really matter. I will say that I picked based on a few things: would I want to mimic the route/stops (not necessarily the budget), who I learned the most from, and activities I’d actually want to do. This answer would vary for every voter.

It is safe to say the readers learned a lot from this series regardless if they would actually fly the trips in economy or not. Business class and fancy hotels are fun sometimes but you also have to take time to enjoy the destination, the people, the culture, etc. You don’t get much of that in a 5-star chain hotel that is identical to Orlando.

Next challenge ideas: Who can get the most practical/actual use of a SW Companion Pass? This is trickier with 5/24 but if planned ahead would be cool to see. For an easier one I say 100k points / $1000 around-the-world but don’t make that for all expenses. Make it a real trip for a month!

See you guys at the Seminars in a couple days!

Awesome
Guest
Awesome

This challenge was AWESOME! Great idea guys. May I propose the next challenge? Around the world in a weekend for as little as possible (or something to that effect) and how much it cost via points + cash. I say limit this to a weekend or a “long weekend” (1 vacation day) because that will pique the interest of even those who don’t have vacation. They can call in sick to work to get that extra day 😀

David
Guest
David

For me, it was a tight vote between Greg and Nick. Personally prefer Nick’s destinations, and I’m not sure I’m sold on Greg’s couch surfing, but Greg gets the nod for staying within the budget. Many aspects of Stephen’s trip were truly impressive, but his itinerary is the least appealing to me. Really enjoyed learning more about the Excursionist Perk and TY sweet spots. A little depressed that my main holdings right now are MR. All in all, a great idea. I enjoyed following the competition and join the rest who are hoping for more of the same in the future.

DSK
Guest
DSK

Ok—I will join in. I absolutely loved this whole concept and for the first time I started checking Frequent Miler on all media multiple times per day. I talked about it constantly with my spouse and kids. Awesome job by all three of you. As far as my vote, I’m old enough to remember the book Europe on $10 per day so to me, Stephen’s trip was interesting but not why I got into the hobby. I really wanted to go with Nick and thought he would be unbeatable (I mean come on, joining the yacht club—that is such a “I thumb my nose at all my competitors” thing) and was actually ok with going over budget if it occurred due to unforeseen events. However, it sounded like Nick started his trip over budget and I’m not really comfortable with the redefined trip that just used slIghtly over half of his allotted miles—that leaves a lot of possibilities on the table. Also, I don’t think Nick properly thought about the concept of sleep, with unfortunate results. As for Greg, couch surfing was brilliant and I felt like he was the most realistic about his physical capabilities (I.e., you can only go without sleep for so long until everything breaks down). Greg wins in my book. Nick’s trip seemed like he was torturing himself. Greg’s trip sounded like fun. Stephen’s trip sounded like what I used to do myself 40 years ago.

Rdover1
Guest
Rdover1

The winner is clearly this blog!

The runner up is the city of Madrid as 2/3 of you loved it and are determined to go back.

Well done guys. You really impressed. Thanks for having us along for the ride.

Margot
Guest
Margot

That was a great challenge that forced you finding creative ways for inexpensive travels, and your readers learned a lot. For example how to use cheap redemption options for additional flights and research various modes of transportation. Unfortunately your lodging budget was close to zero, which makes it practical only for a very narrow segment of your readers. Most of the people would not consider sleeping at airport floor. Instead they prefer learning about reasonably priced but comfortable lodging options. So please set aside a separate budget for lodging at your next challenge. Thanks for your blog, you are truly the best.

Josh S
Guest
Josh S

And the winner is…. me.
Even though I voted (secret ballot) for only one “miler”, all three of you get my unofficial vote. I learned so much about how you plan and think about travel. Nick kept my interest level high with the possibility of TY points to Hawaii. Greg travelled a very long way through Africa . Stephen saw a great deal to Madrid and built a fun trip around it. I learned how someone can maximize value out of the credit card point currencies. I read the blog to learn how to look at miles/points and use points/miles from different perspectives. In this contest, with a limited time frame and a limited budget, all the “milers” found fantastic destinations. As I read, I learned stuff and sometimes laughed at your various mishaps.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Congrats to all, and it looks like you may have created a new genre of travel in this hobby with the “blog challenge”.

Sco
Guest
Sco

This was so much fun to follow! I only read this blog occasionally before, but I think I’m a regular reader now. My only complaint is that I wish it had been easier to follow along in real time – it seemed like some stuff was getting posted on the blog and some on twitter and some on other places.

I was thinking that this was a toss-up between Greg and Nick, until I saw that Nick basically disregarded the budget entirely. I could have maybe still given it to him if he had just gone over due to some unforeseen circumstances, but he was already over after just booking the flights!

Greg: Greg’s trip was great and my only disappointment is that I was already pretty well-versed in the excursionist perk. I have a boatload of UR points, so I was hoping to learn some new way to use them! 🙂 Although, I hadn’t totally realized that Dakar is in the Southern Africa region on UA – that knowledge along with some VS miles that I have laying around (for IAD-DSS on SA) already has me putting together a trip for next year.

Nick: In some ways I was most impressed with Nick’s trip because I had always seen Citi points as less useful than UR or MR, so I was surprised with how far Nick got. Hawaii on Turkish miles alone has me considering picking up a Citi card (and frankly looking into crediting other *A flights there). It’s kind of a shame because I feel like if Nick hadn’t had his sights set on Niue so much, he could have tried something else from SE Asia and gotten my vote – he still had so many points left at that point!

Stephen: Stephen’s trip and his cash out of all his MR points at 1.25 cpp brings up a “problem” that I’ve been having lately: revenue flights, especially to Europe (and sometimes China/Asia), have been so cheap the last few years that I’ve found it really hard to justify using my miles/points instead of cash. My balances have gotten higher than I’d like them to be, but then I keep finding sub-$400 RT from the west coast to Europe that I feel weird passing up so my balances just keep increasing. I am looking forward to the details on the casino status matches – that’s something that I’ve assumed generally wasn’t worth my time in the past, but I’m realizing that I hadn’t fully appreciated the free plays and the amount of winnings you could be cashing out.

AlexL
Guest
AlexL

Regarding IAD-DSS on SAA, I am afraid that route is suspended by SAA starting from 9/1/2019, which effectively killing one of the great sweet spots. If you want to read more, one mile at a time has a detailed report on it.

Sco
Guest
Sco

Crap, I missed that. Thanks. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board… 🙂

quasimodo
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quasimodo

Greg – you had the most interesting trip. Stephens was kind of boring (From an experienced traveler perspective), and Nick wasn’t creative enough.

Peter
Guest
Peter

I didn’t enjoy the Necker Islands voyage a few years ago. I thought the series was too drawn out and distracting from the insightful MS analyses that attracted me to FM in the first place. So, when this 40k challenge was first mentioned, I wasn’t thrilled.

Little did I expect that it’d be a series that I read while brushing my teeth every morning. This has been so much fun and so addicting to follow! Truly brilliant idea, and the execution was superb. I voted for Stephen but won’t argue with anyone who favored Greg or Nick. All three have provided so much insight and entertainment. Kudos to the open-ended rules that sparked so much debate.

Compared to Necker (which, in hindsight, I do have a ton of appreciation for), the vast improvement here is that most of us have 40k points of something and $400. This is relatable, useful, and fun in the sense that we can replicate it (not so much dining with Richard Branson). Thank you all for doing this and thanks for sharing all the tricks.

JN2
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JN2

Thank you all for doing this; I have really enjoyed all the posts, from planning to packing to travel experiences to how you used miles/money. I would really like to hear more about Niue and the Seychelles if Nick/Greg spent time in their final destinations, as both sound interesting.

I voted for Greg, but I think you all did a great job with the challenge. Highlights for me were Nick’s use of 7.5K miles to Hawaii, Greg’s nested United Excursionist perk flights and connecting with people who lived in the places he visited (I can’t see myself couchsurfing or taking a long distance train between JNB and CPT, but I loved reading about the experiences and want to try to incorporate more interaction with locals into my travel), and how long Stephen traveled within the budget. I chose Greg’s trip over Nick’s because Nick went over budget and had several local transportation and excursion mishaps / cost overruns that probably could have been mitigated with better planning. Stephen’s itinerary and activities were not my personal preferences, and I also did not get much inspiration about using points from his trip. But, I agree that for inexpensive economy flights, it often makes sense to use cash or the cash value of transferable points instead of transferring points to airline partners to book flights through their programs. Anyway, this challenge was really great, and I would definitely like to see you guys do this again but maybe with a little higher budget.

flyernick
Guest
flyernick

I enjoyed the series a lot and I’m really impressed how far you were all able to get on a pretty modest points and cash budget. I did like Stephen’s troll hunt theme (I’ve seen them at the Morton Arboretum and they are delightful). I also liked that Stephen was able to stretch it out over so many days. But I really liked Greg and Nick’s itineraries — I like to imagine either of them would have been very enjoyable if not so ridiculously compressed because of the small cash/lodging budget. I mean, imagine the same itin., hang out in Madrid a few days, actually experience more than a brief layover in Senegal, explore more of S. Africa, and take time to enjoy the Seychelles. Sounds like a pretty cool adventure. Likewise Nick’s. Whlie Stephen got to some good places, it just got a little too painful reading about sleeping in airports or cars.

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Johnny
Guest
Johnny

Nick tortured himself with the lack of sleep, Stephen came back to America (one can only wonder what he could have done instead and come on, an Atlantic City buffet…) so I voted for Greg. All in all, it was fun sitting on my comfy couch read about your travels.

farnorthtrader
Guest
farnorthtrader

Quite enjoyed it, even though I would never, ever, ever, do it myself (maybe 30 years ago, but not now!).
Found it odd that food was included in the budget, just as it often is included in other posts in other places. I, personally, eat whether I am at home or away, so why would it be differentiated in a travel budget?
Definitely think that the next time, if there is a next time, should be a round trip challenge to make it more relatable for your readers. As noted in another comment, I wouldn’t imagine most of your readers really want to know how to get somewhere with no way back.

Traci Money
Guest
Traci Money

I wanted so bad to vote for you Stephen but Greg had more experiences with locals so that totally won me kver.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I want to join the other readers in thanking the three of you; it took my mind off of work issues, and I learned a lot. To search for round trip as well as one way fares, to use the excursionist feature (but Greg should give an h/t to the Travel is Free article from Drew, which also had the cheap Madrid to Dakar fare as well) and of course Nick- since I leave near a United hub, the question is whether I should now be collecting Thank You points? (only 2 years doing this, so have only done Chase and Amex so far) Prestige or Premier, DoubleCash, and a Simon Mall close by. Need I hint more?
I did vote for Greg, but now I am thinking about Stephen staying with his folks and Greg visiting friends in Capetown. Nick did not have any friends or relatives at any of his stops. (Although he seemed to meet up with other points enthusiasts in Hawaii) I worried about Stephen sleeping in a rental car at night on the street, staying in downtown Atlantic City (I’m from NJ, so I know about the crime there) and walking through Paris in the middle of the night. Not things I would do, even in my younger years.
Anyway, I’m writing this while on business in Chicago in another IHG hotel at O’Hare while you all are close by. Wish I was there. Hope you are having a good time! (and that you didn’t get caught in the traffic jam last night)

M K
Guest
M K

Reading all these posts was an absolute joy. What a fun way to get away from the “everything is about flying first class” ethos of every other travel blog out there.

Look forward to seeing what’s you come up with next time!

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

First of all, kudos to all 3 of you for attempting this and know that I avidly followed along every step of your travels!! I enjoyed the sharing of both FF tips and destination options (can’t wait to search for my own trolls!). I do, however, have to admit a tiny bit of sadness/irritation that you all actually failed the true intent of the challenge: Greg spent 40,811 miles, Steven transferred all his points into cash, and Nick just plain blew the budget. I was so looking forward to learning great TY options to sway me down that CC path or how you maximized UR/MR points for successful economy redemptions which could have have helped families stretch their miles further because not all readers redeem points for aspirational travel or F/J flights. IMHO, Steven is the only one that did not use more than 40k/$400, so he should be the default winner. He went the farthest, saw the most, and stayed within budget…heck, he is the only one that even went round trip! I would love to see a rematch with you all adhering to not just the rules, but the intent of the challenge.

CaveDweller
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CaveDweller

Elizabeth
Great post u Looked and Checked ..Greg overspent as Nick and Steve used cash !! TY points are Great I have 5 (5 used too) one ways on United and to change $50 by Singapore points ..I’m pro nothing just what works for that person’s trip @ that time .
CHEERs

docntx
Guest
docntx

I absolutely believe this is a “no loser” result, and I initially thought this was the goofiest idea yet, but it is an illustration of how different each one of us interprets the joys and challenges of travel. Sometimes it is about the distance, sometimes it is about the experience.
Greg, though, impressed me by his willingness to jump outside our usual comfort zone.
Either way, thank you for a fun, fun challenge.

Tim Tsai
Guest
Tim Tsai

This was absolutely fantastic. I voted for Greg but VeRY thin margin. I believe this should be done once a year as a FM tradition. The distances and the content of the trips were all champions in their own right. Experienced or not, they deserve beaucoup kudos for doing this for US!!

Greg’s excursionist trick was what tipped the scale for me. I was never interested un United before. Now I will add that to my arsenal in the future.

Thank you all. And I would like to see this as an annual challenge.

Mav Gal Mama
Guest
Mav Gal Mama

Wow! What a gift this challenge has been to your reader’s, and to the points/miles travel community at large! Frequent Miler is by far my favorite go-to, for tips and tricks and it has been great seeing some of the same insights you three gained, shared so widely, as a direct result of all three of your successes!
There is a plethora of information available on how to “Best” utilize points&miles, often for for high return, on Lux/Elite travel. Many tools and other shared resources exist, that will point the budget, and luxury driven, towards cash deals. The accessibility of the parameters to this challenge, made it unique, and inspirational. Access to 40k and 400$ seems relatively feasible; for seasoned veterans, dabblers, or for newbies,of points&miles travel. FM is particularly good at pointing out ways to bank both points, and occasionally profit, (from potential resale) which made this challenge something readers could immediately connect to.
Finding information that encompasses how basic needs & necessities associated with travel can be met within a single journey, is an arduous task. Focusing on “just the transport”, or “just the accommodations”, or “just the points of interests” of a particular trip, doesn’t necessarily make it feasible. The holistic scope of this challenge was particularly refreshing.
Setting so few rules, and leaving the criteria for winning, open to interpretation, made this challenge ooze with such potential! Now having gained such great insight experiencing these possibilities, outside of bragging rights, What comes next? The reflections made on the how/why things could have been done more efficiently, or with different outcomes, is already scattered in all the blogging. What would make this challenge as enjoyable to participate in again? The time involved in advanced preparation and participation in the challenge, were considerable. If you were repeating the competition again, how might you three remain challenged? Would you find it more challenging inviting in more competitors, or changing the parameters?
The necessity to work within the confines of something, are often the friction that sparks ingenuity. What if, on a similar challenge,family travel were considered? Sleeping on public transport or in airports while traveling as a single adult is one thing, but what if you were traveling as a single adult with a child, or two? Could this challenge have happened with 120k & 1200$ for a single parent as example? What if everyone had 40k each from Amex, Citi, Chase & 400$? What about a couple with a elderly parent, OR/& a single parent with two school aged children OR/& three HS friends/Uni roommates, 20 years later? OR What if the travel had to occur during the holidays? Seeing how far you could get during a universally harder time to travel, like school holidays is truly an ongoing challenge for many people. With resources 1.5x or 2x, more, if you only had 1-2 total days to sandwich, Thanksgiving, Christmas or February break, could it be done? Opening up possibilities with such, “what if” questions could make this challenge varied and repeatable, with all the same potential to open up new insight. Were any of these variables ones that you guys considered while traveling? Is there enough engagement to warrant another such challenge in the future?
At its heart, by investigating potential and sharing your various processes; approaches, experience, expertise, and navigational skills, your teaching of others has absolutely made your audience the winner of this challenge! Gentlemen all the thought, time and consideration you put into this was inspiring & greatly appreciated!

YoniPDX
Guest
YoniPDX

After reading through all the trips report’s before casting my vote.

Nick visited Auckland, NZ but no LOTR movie location visits (tsk, tsk) but I am truly impressed how he travels with all his hats – I struggle traveling with those style hats -but I wear them as well. We are planning on riding the train from Wellington to Auckland next year and hitting Hobbition and a few other LOTR sites. Almost got my vote.

Stephens trip reminded me too much of backpacker trips of the 20th century, truly impressive with the breadth and width of what he did with his miles and money, but more walking and trolls than I care for (I get my troll fill whenever I visit Reddit, lol). Yet I enjoyed his creative money creation and staying under budget. Almost got my vote but just to frugal for an European visit; now if it was M.E., Africa or Asia then we have a contest.

…For the Win:

Staging to return Via Etihad First Apartments- I would have voted for anybody that staged a relaxed on return after the end of the contest traveling in a Eithad 1st Apt for 80K AA ( that wasn’t a short flight).

So Kudos finishing in the Seychelles to return home via Etihad First Apartments for 80K AA -You win -we used 80K AS miles for F seats on BAs A380 -JNB – LHR ($590 fuel surcharge) but F rest of the way LHR to PDX. I think you got the better Hard/Soft product on Eithad.

Win also, since we are spending 16 days this December to visit SA, we’re touring the Mother city (CPT) and region for almost a week – renting a car for 4 days for Safari north of Jozie – then 3 day urban weekend staying in Melrose Arch (Suburb of Jozie) using up the last of our SPG biz SUBs from 2018 on our Hotel stays while in ZA. Planning on visting the Rosebank sunday market and apartheid museum while in Joburg

RE: Train ride
Premier Classe train was awfully tempting to spend a day traveling the SA countryside on a luxury train ride – but in the end we booked seats on BA JNB-CPT-JNB (for AS miles of course). Since DW has finite amount of PTO for 2019. Makes me glad now that we booked travel via air- as all it takes is one train to breakdown to have an issue

John
Guest
John

I voted for Greg because his trip was the most out of the box, involved lots of local people, and used the excurstionest perk to the best

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Hats off to all three of you. All very different trips and tons of knowledge learned and to be shared from this. All three look like amazing adventures. I’m certain that all three trips will serve as inspiration for folks trying to put together their own trips to these parts of the world. As many others have said, I also think this competition has consistently driven some of the best (of the already best) blog content in the past few months.