It’s official — we booked our tickets.

This is me trying to be calm and cool and collective, while meanwhile inside I’m really like…

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I feel like I’m living in some sort of dream land, and some loud noise from outside, or the ring of my phone will wake me up and push me back into reality. To say, I am excited, would be a massive understatement – but at this point, I don’t know what else to say.

So folks, I am excited.

After months of research and planning, we turned this concept that was so crazy and foreign to us, initially,  into an actionable plan, and made it real life. At the age of 27, we are taking what seems to be a leap of faith to many,  putting aside typical life goals, and taking time to ourselves. I’d say we both have somewhat of a rebellious streak, so it feels exhilarating to escape the stream.

Where we are going:

As you may know, from one of my earlier posts: Is a Gap Travel Year Realistic?, we originally planned to visit several European cities, and Southeast Asian countries. However, the plan has changed slightly. Southeast Asia is still a go — we will be visiting Thailand and Indonesia. But, we’ve since swapped out our European tour for two African countries – Ethiopia and South Africa. And we won’t be going for a year. We’ll be going for four months instead (due to other obligations), but we are already planning our next trip.

By using credit card rewards and converting them to Aeroplan miles, we are getting a travel experience worth just under $9,000 after spending only $499 on credit card fees, and $150 on flight fees. Not only will we be traveling to these places, we will be traveling in business class. It’s so [crazy] that this will be our first time leaving North America – and we’ll be doing it in luxury.

How we were able to do it:

After months of research, Rob discovered the concept of ‘Round the World’ flights (You may see this shortened to ‘RTW’ on many sites). This basically means that you can travel to more places with less Aeroplan points. We used about 160,000 points for our entire trip,  while ordinarily (if we were paying per segment) it would have cost us 150,000 alone just for a round trip business class flight to South Africa.

A RTW trip consists of an origin, a destination, and up to two stopover points. In this instance, a stopover is any place that you stay for more than 24 hours.  In addition to this, you are allowed an unlimited amount of layovers, which is any place you stay for less than 24 hours. We have a few unplanned layovers during our trip, but we won’t be leaving the airport as we didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting tourist visas for such a short time.

You have to really choose destinations and stopovers methodically, because there is a limit on the amount of miles your stopover points can be from your destination. Rob, who planned this entire trip, recommends creating an Aeroplan account (which is free) and searching for flights to get an idea of how it works.

How we got the points:

We took advantage of credit card offers to accumulate rewards points quickly. We paid everything imaginable with our credit cards — from rent to groceries to paying bills for family members (who would pay us back in cash). Typically, the promotion would be something like spend $1,000 within the first 3 months (typically referred to as the ‘Minimum Spend’) of owning the card to get x amount of points. The minimum spend varied – some cards didn’t have any minimum spend requirements at all.

This was our strategy for getting the points so quickly:

  • American Express Platinum Card = $699 annual fee. However it comes with an annual travel credit of $200 which amounts to $400 if you use it in year one, and in year two before the renewal date. So in essence, you are only paying a $299 annual fee.
  • American Express Gold = $150 annual fee. However there are promotions from time to time when you can get this card without paying the annual fee for the first year.
  • Amex Business Gold = No annual fee.
  • Flight fees = $150
  • Total = $600 per person

I took some time to breakdown the cost of our flights if we had paid full price for everything, and I could hardly believe it totaled to just under $9,000.

$9,000.

This is so unbelievable.

How did this world exist, and I never knew? Anyway I hope that I have shined some light on our adventure, and have inspired one of you to delve into this cool world of credit card rewards and travel.

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