Category Archives: Trip Planning

Best Use of British Airways Miles

UPDATE: Given the change to Avios, I have created a New Best Use of British Airways Miles page.  From a high-level, the best use is now short-haul trips.

Many of you may have a lot of American Airlines and British Airways miles given the big bonuses they had in the last year.  Their redemption options are very similar but there are differences that I talked about in the British Airways post.  So what are some of the best uses of British Airways miles over American Airlines? (Note: All redemption costs below assume you’re traveling from the U.S. unless otherwise noted.)

  • Hawaii during peak season (April – August) - British Airways charges 17,500 miles each way.  American Airlines ups their redemption cost to 22,500 miles each way for peak season.
  • Bermuda - BA only charges 25,000 round-trip to Bermuda.  American charges 35,000.
  • International Stopovers – If you travel to international locations either just on British Airways, British Airways and 1 partner, or just 1 partner, you can use the standard redemption chart (i.e. not the oneworld award chart) while still doing unlimited stopovers.  I talked about this in a previous post.  While traveling to Europe on BA may cost you a lot in fueling charges, going to other locations (such as South America) may not.
  • Domestic Stopovers - BA allows unlimited stopovers.  I talked about how you can use this to your advantage on international flights.  But you can also use this to your advantage on domestic flights.  Let’s say you wanted to make a tour of the U.S.  You could travel Boston to Chicago (stopover) to LA one way.  And then on the return, you could go LA to Denver (stopover) to Boston.  You can add in many stopovers within reason and you should keep the flow of your flights in one direction (don’t zigzag across the country).  You will need to call to book a trip with stopovers (800) 452-1201.

This is not meant to be an extensive list of how you can use your British Airways miles.  It is meant to give you some of the differences between British Airways and American Airline redemption.  You can still use some of the techniques I talked about in the American Airline redemption series with your British Airways miles.

Any American Airlines MileSAAver flight can be booked using British Airways miles.  If you have more than one connection or are incorporating stopovers into your trip, you will need to call British Airways to book the flights.  I have found that it’s best to do your research before calling.  You should know the flight numbers you want before you call.  I booked our first trip to Hawaii using BA miles.  When I called them to book the flights, the customer service representative told me that there were none available.  I asked her if I could give her the flight numbers one by one.  She said yes.  After I told her all of the flight numbers and dates, she was surprised that the trip was available.  You can do your research using the search engines I talked about yesterday.

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com with any questions.

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How to Search for Award Tickets for Oneworld Airlines

In a previous post, I mentioned which search engines you could use to find award tickets on oneworld airlines.  I didn’t mention when you would want to use one search engine over another so I wanted to cover that today.

  • www.aa.com – This is the American Airlines web site.  It is free and you do not need a frequent flyer account to search on this site.  This site only shows availability for American Airlines.  It does not show partner airline availability.  If you can find a MileSAAver award on the American web site, you can book that flight using British Airways miles.
  • www.britishairways.com – This is the British Airways web site.  It is free but you do need a frequent flyer account to search on the site.  Creating a frequent flyer account is free and you do not need to have any miles in the account to search.  The down side to using the British Airways site for searching is that it always looks for British Airways flights flight and it tries to route you through London.  However, after that initial search, you can include partner airlines if BA flights are not found.  And unlike some other sites, this site does show Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific availability.
  • www.qantas.com – This is the Qantas web site.  It is free but you do need a frequent flyer account to search on the site.  Creating a frequent flyer account is free and you do not need to have any miles in the account to search.  This site is good for searching for European flights, since unlike British Airways, it does not try to force you on a British Airways flight.  However, this site is not good for Asia awards since it does not show availability for Japan Airlines and the Cathay Pacific results are sometimes unreliable.
  • www.expertflyer.com – This is a paid site.  It has a lot of flexibility in how you can search for awards and it will tell you have many award tickets are available.  However, it only shows information for the following oneworld partners: American, Alaska, Qantas, and economy Finn Air.
  • www.kvstool.com – This is a paid site.  It shows award availability for all airlines in the oneworld alliance.
  • www.awardnexus.com – You must be a member of Flyertalk to access this site.  It is not as advanced as Expert Flyer or the KVS Tool, but it does include all of the oneworld alliance airlines.

Feel free to comment on the post or email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com with any questions.

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Expert Flyer and KVS

There are 2 web sites that most people in the cheap travel game use for finding flights – Expert Flyer and KVS Tool.  These sites allow you to search for airfares, frequent flyer tickets, and how many seats exist at each fare class for many airlines.  Let’s say you’re looking to redeem frequent flyer miles for a flight.  This tool will allow you to see which flights have frequent flyer tickets available and how many tickets they have.  From this information, you can determine which legs of the trip are preventing your desired trip from being available for frequent flyer redemption.  You can then look for alternate routes to get you to your desired destination.

Another great use of these tools is described in this week’s Travel Sort blog.  It describes how you can use married segments to find cheap flights.  As he alludes to in the article, this is what people use to string together mileage runs.  They are looking to find the cheapest dollar/mile trips to help them get status with an airline.  When you have status with an airline, you accumulate mileage faster and you often can upgrade to first class for free.

This article is fascinating.  If you are looking to book a trip which is long enough where you could have a connection, you should definitely check this out.  I ran a couple of tests based on the information in the article and saw hundreds of dollars difference for the exact same flights using his advice.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  I hope you do something for yourself today.  My mom friends and I have a tradition of going out to dinner together for Mother’s Day.  That way you’re always guaranteed to have a little me time on your day.

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Trip Planning

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am a big time planner, especially when I’m traveling.  I like to know a lot about our destination before we go.  I try to plan out months in advance the big activities we want to do on the trip.  So how do I go about planning a trip?

  • Talk to people who live there or have been there – There is no reason to go in blind to a destination.  There is so much we can learn from other people.  If I know someone who lives in the location, I ask them for their suggestions on must see activities and tips on favorite restaurants.  If I know someone who went on vacation there, I ask them what the favorite thing they did was and what their best advice is.  I find that people who are tourists have different suggestions than a local would have and you can learn a lot from both.
  • Visit your library – I always stop by our library and pick up travel books.  Our library has a great selection with many books per location.  If I find a book that I really like, then I’ll got out and buy it.  I like getting the books because it gives me a starting point.  I find that there is so much information on the web; I like to focus my search before I start.
  • Search on the web – There are tons of web sites that give great information about travel destinations.  I try to find 2 – 3 really good sites for each location.  I create a folder in my internet browser Favorites, so I always have easy access to the sites.
  • Research on Trip Advisor – Before booking anything – hotel, activity, etc – I like to see what people on Trip Advisor have to say.  You can find great information that will improve the quality of your trip.

I will feature some of the trips that we’ve taken and how I planned for them.  And I’d also like to feature locations that either we’ve been to or would like to go to.  If you have any great tips for places you’ve been, let me know how you planned for the trip.  I’d love to share your tips with everyone.  And if you’re thining about taking a vacation and want some suggestions let me know.  I’ll write a blog about the location and how I would plan for it.

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Priceline, Hotwire, and Last Minute Travel

I understand that many people will not want to play the credit card game.  Also it’s hard to cover all travel expenses through credit card sign up bonuses.  So I want to talk about some of the other ways that I save money when booking travel.

First, I almost never book hotels or rental cars through the main travel sites.  I generally use Priceline, Hotwire or Last Minute Travel.  Priceline allows you to name your own price, while Hotwire and Last Minute Travel give you discounted prices, but you don’t know the company you’re booking with until after you book.  Both of those methods may have people nervous – 1) because you don’t know which company you’re going to end up with 2) with Priceline, you may not know where to start bidding.

Luckily, there are ways around these concerns.  There are forum sites where people post winning Priceline bids and Hotwire bookings.  They also have information about which hotels participate in the programs.  They do not have Last Minute Travel information, but you can use similar techniques to Hotwire on Last Minute Travel.  My 2 favorite forum sites are Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel.

Rental cars are really straight forward.  I really just use the sites to know where to start bidding.

For hotels, each of the forum sites gives you a list of hotels that participate in the Priceline and Hotwire programs by level of hotel.  The Hotwire list gives you a list of amenities to help you figure out which hotel you might get.  Better Bidding also has a feature I love.  It’s the Priceline and Hotwire Calendar of Wins.  It allows you to easily search winning bids for a given time period for a location.  It’s a great feature to help you gauge what you should bid since hotel prices vary based on the time of year.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll cover bidding strategies so you don’t have to wait a day between bids if your first bid is not accepted.

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