Running Round the World With Miles

Why I Chose The Cities And Routes For My Round The World Trip

round the world
Written by Charlie

Last week, I wrote about the major event I am doing later this year running 6 marathon distances on 6 continents in 4 1/2 days. It is a pretty ambitious schedule and I wanted to show some of the reasons why I chose the cities I did for this trip.

Why I Chose The Cities And Routes For My Around The World Trip

Planning an around the world trip can be quite a logistics ordeal. It takes a knowledge of where you want to go, what airlines serve those destinations, deciding on how long you want to stay, and checking award availability. It can become an even bigger logistics ordeal when it involves a specific schedule like this. Precisely, I wanted to finish this event as soon as possible so it meant booking routes to cities to facilitate that tight schedule.

My Checklist

Airline Hubs

This was important for a couple of reasons – one is that it allowed me to take single flights to reach these cities versus having to transit a third airport to get to the country. That would require a layover, possible aircraft delays, and additional time added to the schedule. The other reason it was important was for airline award availability. Availability is generally much better when it involves an airline hub versus outlying destinations. Selecting airline hubs was an important reason – and it shows since every city along the way is a major hub for various airlines.

round the world

Airports with non-stops were key / Courtesy Shutterstock

Visa Fee Free

Obviously, I would not be able to avoid visas entirely. But, I did not want to be hung up by having to send my passport in to apply for a visa for any of my destinations. Also, if for some reason it was denied, it could cause a huge upset to the entire plan. In addition to not wanting to have to apply, I also did not want to have to pay high reciprocity fees. Fortunately, Chile ended their large fees for visas last year so that makes it much easier. Still, there were some instances where cost could not really be avoided:

  • Greece – no fee or visa
  • Egypt – pay small fee at airport (this almost was a big problem as they announced a couple of months ago that they were going to get rid of the visa on arrival for many nationalities, including USA citizens. Fortunately, they have put that on hold)
  • United Arab Emirates – no fee and a simple passport stamp at the airport
  • Australia – pay small fee for electronic travel authority filed and paid for online before travel
  • Chile – no fee
  • USA – as a US citizen, no problem here either! 🙂

Airline Miles

Since I was paying for this with airline miles and am using this to help show travelers, especially runners, how easy it is to travel for almost nothing with miles. As a result, I wanted to choose miles in programs that were easily accessible and easy to use for US residents/citizens. For that reason, I chose to use United miles, American Airline miles, and Alaska Air miles for all my segments. I could have used some foreign programs instead but I wanted to keep it simple.

Cities With Running Friendly Areas

Of course, it helps to run in places that have decent places to run! I hit this on almost all of my locations, the wild card being Cairo. I have attempted to do this in Cairo before and did not have success. It is a tough city to run in and even locals caution visitors about running there. However, since I am only a couple of hours away, I will be making a survey trip down there for a run and location scout. I have a general area in mind but want to check it from the ground.

Those are a few of the things I looked for generally.

Reasons For Each City

Thessaloniki, Greece

Since this is where I currently live, it was a no-brainer for the European city. I run here all the time and this would give me an opportunity to run in a very familiar city with my family here. In addition, it is a great location for a European city when I need to make a quick trip to Africa.

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo sits as the best location for my runs in the whole scheme of things. Not only that, but with Egypt Air, it also gave an easy way in and out of the country using single flights. It is also a member of the Star Alliance so bookable with United miles.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

This was actually the first location I chose. I wanted an Asian location close to Africa to eliminate a long flight to the other side of the continent. I had considered Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bangkok, but they would require a long flight there and then another longish flight to Australia. The reason I specifically chose Abu Dhabi is that it would provide me the opportunity to fly in my new favorite airplane cabin – Etihad’s First Apartment. For only 60,000 AA miles to Australia, this was a steal of a deal and gave me a great way to get a long enough flight to relax and catch up on sleep.

Running Round the World With Miles

Getting to rest and relax in this was a key reason for choosing Abu Dhabi

Sydney, Australia

This was also a no-brainer. It is the easiest city to fly into for Australia and is also a place that I have run in before. The city is laid out nicely and the city is easy to use for non-stop flights.

Santiago, Chile

With the selection of routes, I knew I had to pick Santiago. The airline route from Australia to South America is definitely one of the most sparse for airlines. There are only a couple of flights along this route and Santiago was the city I had to choose. I could have routed through the US and hit that US city for my 5th run, but I really wanted to finish the run in the US. That meant finding the non-stop from Australia to Chile.

Washington, DC

I could easily have picked any one of several major population centers around the US. One such could have been Miami. I actually have a layover there so could have just used that. However, I chose DC because I look at it as one of my favorite running cities in the US, but more importantly, it is our nation’s capitol and I thought it would be fitting to end my fundraiser for our wounded vets there.

Running Round the World With MIles

DC is a great place to run and has a lot of history and emotions / Courtesy Shutterstock


It only took about 15 minutes to choose the cities that I wanted to use. It helped that I went into it with my little must-have list for cities. Once I had those, it was just a matter of finding award availaibility on the routes. I did have to shift a day backwards because the flight from Australia to Chile only operates on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but other than, it was all pretty easy!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I wouldn’t say it’s easy nor is it free to fly around the world. It seems the easiest way is through credit card intro bonuses but who knows how long that will last. In addition, a minimum spend has to be fulfilled and for a newbie, manufactured spending is a really new concept. Add the taxes/fees and the time looking for award space, it’s not really free nor is it easy (depends on the route and how flexible you are, obviously.)
    As for your choices of cities, choosing hubs make sense. For the Africa component, I would have guessed Addis Ababa since it’s a hub for Ethiopian Airlines (star alliance) and that country has a rich history of marathon runners. Despite all the instability in Cairo at the moment, I’ve been there several times the past few years and have always done my runs in Zamalek, which I feel is a very safe area. Unfortunately that’s not near the airport at all but there may be routes in Heliopolis or periphery of the airport?
    Good luck! I’m more interested in hearing about the logistics of the trip and the luggage you plan to bring and how you’ll do laundry and what not — or will you wear a different outfit at each city? 🙂

    • Thanks, Joey, for the great input and insight. For my beginner posts, I definitely do not (and will not) lean much on the manufactured spending. It is really easy to get confused or go overboard based on how easy it seems – and then have $4,000 worth of gift cards on hand that you cannot dump (remember the home improvement cards?). I think the credit card bonuses will continue for a while, at least. This is certainly a great time and market for the banks yet they keep issuing some great bonuses, and even mixing up the bonuses to provide some really interesting values on the bonus. While not free, it obviously does drastically reduce our costs. Let’s hope that the bonuses stay good until after my trip or else one of the main points, demonstrating the travel with points, will be reduced from where it is now! 🙂
      I had thought about Addis Ababa, but I have not been there and have been to Cairo so I ended up with Cairo. Every city on the list is a city that I have visited at least once so that helps a bit. It also helps that I will be able to do trial runs in Abu Dhabi and Cairo.
      As for the luggage, yes, there will be a post on that! Last time I did this, I actually did a sponge bath in a Target in Los Angeles before heading back to the airport! Fortunately, that will not be necessary this time. Does Etihad do laundry onboard? 🙂