Early planning for this 7 month trip.

The planning of the first half of the trip was started in the fall of 2015, with the first flights reserved in November for travel originally scheduled for September 2016.  You generally get the best award availability about 11 months ahead. 

At that point, we were planning a six week trip to the Southern Hemisphere with about 2 weeks each in Peru, South Africa and New Zealand.  Once the idea of long term travel took hold the itinerary got longer,r but the basic flights remained the same.

I started with the flights that I knew from reading other blogs would be the most difficult to snag.   I first determined that I wanted us to be on a guided tour in South Africa so I decided which tour to take and before I booked the tour, I began looking for flights from Peru to South Africa and then South Africa to Australia.  These are 2 very long flights that needed to fit around the South African tour dates.

To get from Peru to South Africa I used 180,000 United miles and paid $85 in fees to fly business class for both of us on the following route:

 Lima, Peru to Cape Town, South Africa

Lima, Peru to Cape Town, South Africa

This flight takes 2 days, because Lima to Sao Paulo (GRU), Brazil is a red-eye and after a daytime layover in Sao Paulo, we have another red-eye to Johannesburg.  The airlines are Peru based Trans American and then South African Airways, both United partners.  Believe it or not, the retail cost of these tickets was about $7,500 each.  Compared to flying from the USA to Europe for example, there are not many choices in how to get from Peru to South Africa. It will be a tough trip, even in Business Class. We arrive 3 days before the tour starts so that we can rest after the flight and start adjusting to the time change.

The next long flight gets us from South Africa to Australia and leaves one day after the tour ends:

I used 100,000 American Airline miles plus fees of $124 for the 2 Qantas Business Class tickets which would have cost about $2,900 each.  This was the most difficult of all to find award availability and if necessary,  I would have changed the dates of the tour in order to fit available award flights.

Once these two difficult to find flights were confirmed, I went ahead and booked the South African tour with Gate1Travel.  These two flights and the tour provided the central point from which I expanded both the beginning and end after this trip extended to three months. Much later in the process I booked the flights to Lima and the flights home in November because I knew that they would be easier to get with miles and we could always do those in coach since the flight to Lima is relatively short with little time change and we could rest after the flight back to the USA.