Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

How to Maximize Your Mileage Using Great Circle Mapper

As many of you may know, having elite status is important to me, as it makes travel smoother and much more enjoyable.  So as much as possible, I always try to maximize my routing. I know personal time is very important for many people, including myself.

Which is why I also value having “insurance” to fall back on.  Because if you fly enough, delays, misconnects and cancelled flights are not a matter of if, but when.  And when the chaos begins, airlines generally accommodate their most loyal customers first and foremost.

I have heard (and even experienced on occasion) case after case where delays and irregular operations lead to long, panic-stricken lines at airport ticket counters.  And the cooler heads with elite status and preferred reservation numbers almost always prevail and get out on earlier flights.

Anyway, so if I need to take an extra flight or a longer routing on a trip, I see doing so as insurance for when things go wrong.

So year when I decided to make a run for elite airline status, I started trying to milk the most mileage out of every trip.  When booking my trip to DC, I remember spending over an hour tediously pouring over all of the flight options, clicking on each individual flight numbers to check the distance, then adding up the mileage of each respective routing.  Little did I know there was an easier way….

The Great Circle Mapper  in its own words “displays maps and computes distances along a geodesic path.”  It includes an extensive, searchable database of airports, and is therefore able to compute distances between them, or between a series of airports.  So whenever I am booking a trip and trying to maximize my routing, I use Great Circle Mapper to effortlessly compare mileage.

Let’s say that I am looking a booking a trip to New York – Kennedy (JFK).  Below are two routes that this trip would involve.  For the sake of the example, let’s  ignore any difference in price for now.

Both routes involve layovers in Atlanta, but one is through Salt Lake City while the other stops through Minneapolis,  so we want to find out which route is longer.

One trick I like to use in FireFox or Internet Explorer users is to open a new tab in my browser for Great Circle Mapper, but pressing “Ctrl+T.”

Either, way, once you are on the webpage, enter the route information in the white area next to the “Great Circle Mapper” globe logo.

Enter the 3-digit airport code of airport, (you could type the city name into the text if you didn’t know it) including the one you are planning to depart from, separated by dashes.

Thus, in this particular case I entered “PSC-SLC-ATL-JFK” into the text box.  To bring up the route map and distance information you can either hit the “Distance” button below the text box, or simply hit “Enter” on your keyboard.

Salt Lake City Option

And the now Great Circle Mapper not only gives us a route map, it tells us the approximated distances between airports and will even total up the entire distance of a trip:

Salt Lake City Map and Mileage

And doing the same search for the route through Minneapolis lets us know that you would actually earn more miles traveling this route:

Minneapolis Map and Mileage

Obviously, for any trip there will be multiple options, and this process would then need to be re-iterated more than once.  But by using Great Circle Mapper, you can quickly figure out which routes will earn you the most miles for flying them, and thus which route option is the optimal candidate.


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