Many of us have collected miles in a number of frequent flyer programs. Most of mine are concentrated between American and United/Continental. So when I’m planning a trip, I want to make sure that I utilize those miles most effectively. There are many things to consider when considering that:
- What airports am I willing to travel from and to?
- What time of year am I traveling?
- Do I want to stop in multiple cities during my trip?
- What type of ticket do I want (ecomony, business, first)?
- How many tickets am I trying to redeem miles for?
- Am I flexible with my dates?
Which airline you choose to redeem your miles on will depend on how you answer those questions. An easy example of this can be illustrated using the recent changes to the British Airways frequent flyer program. If I want to travel from NYC to Raleigh, NC, it will cost me a minimum of 25,000 miles round-trip if I use American Airlines miles. However, if I use British Airways miles, it will only cost 9,000 miles round-trip. Another example is flying between NYC and Hawaii. It will cost 35,000 miles (in the off season) on American and 40,000 miles on Continental/United.
There is a free on-line tool called Milez.biz that can help you get an idea of how many miles you will need by frequent flyer program. It doesn’t give you information about high and low seasons, but it’s a great start. It also won’t give you information about more complicated award tickets, like if you wanted to do stopovers. You can search between 2 cities and individually choose which programs you want to compare (or leave it blank for all of the programs that they have information on).
Searching between LaGuardia and Honolulu
Last year, we took our first trip to Hawaii. We flew into Oahu and spent a little over a day there, which gave us the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach. We then flew to Maui where we spent the rest of our vacation. I was a little worried about the amount of time it would take to get to Hawaii from the East Coast. My husband isn’t crazy about process of getting to your destination and I wasn’t sure how our kids would do on the long plane rides. Luckily, everyone did great. And by the time we got home, my husband was already saying that he wanted to go back.
Fast forward a year and we’re almost on our way back. This year we decided to only to go Maui. It was great to go to Oahu, but we found that Maui was much more our speed. It had a much more relaxed atmosphere but there was still a lot to do (even with kids). We were lucky to be able to use frequent flyer miles for all 4 of our tickets. And I got the Hyatt Visa card which came with 2 free nights. Then I got the Capital One card when they were matching up to 100,000 miles of any of your frequent flyer accounts. I redeemed those points for Hyatt gift checks. So we’re spending a grand total of $115 for our airfare, 6 nights at the Hyatt Regency and $200 for incidentals at the Hyatt.
I had somewhat of an idea of what activities we wanted to do this time around. But, I wanted to get more ideas so I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had suggestions on what we could do. I also got Maui Revealed from the library, since the series of books are considered the best guide books for Hawaii. And now I have a plan for our vacation!
- Saturday – We get in late, so we’re not planning anything except for a good night’s sleep.
- Sunday – Sunrise at Haleakala and then the rest of the day at the hotel pools and beach.
National Park Service picture of the sunrise at Haleakala
- Monday – Snorkeling at Molokini and Turtle Arches with the Pacific Whale Foundation. We went on a snorkeling trip with them last year and had a great time. They do an amazing job with kids. They give them a marine biology lessons. You can see my review from last year.
Pacific Whale Foundation
- Tuesday – The Road to Hana. I was a little worried about taking this trip with the kids but was convinced that it is not to be missed. I’m sure I’ll be happy that we took the trip.
Picture of the Road to Hana from Go Visit Hawaii
- Wednesday – Beach and a luau. I scheduled items at the beginning of the week that we’d need to get up early for. I figured that we use our jetlag to our advantage. By later in the week, I’m sure we’ll like to have some time to just relax around the hotel and beach. And luckily, the Hyatt also has a luau. Last year we went to the Royal Lahaina Luau. I’m read some bad reviews of it, but I found it to be a great time. And they definitely catered to the family crowd, offering discounts to kids and including chicken nuggets in their buffet. This year, we thought we’d trip another luau to get a different show. I know that the Old Lahaina Luau is given the best reviews, but we decided against it. Since they are a traditional Hawaiian luau, they do not have a fire show. And that was the part of the luau that our kids liked the best.
Picture of Drums of the Pacific by Hawaii Activities
- Thursday – Iao Valley, Nakalele blowhole and Olivine Pools. Last year, a local suggested that we visit Iao. He said whenever people visit, that’s where he takes them. Because we only had about 3 days in Maui, we didn’t get a chance to make it there. So luckily, we get to rectify that this year. Plus a friend suggested we go to the Nakalele blowhole and Maui Revealed talked about natural pools along the north shore.
Nakalele Blowhole picture by Maui Guidebook
Olivine Pools picture by Maui Guidebook
- Friday – Our flight isn’t until 10 PM, so we have most of the day, but we don’t want to travel far. We’ll spend the day enjoying the beach and doing some souvenir shopping and eating in Lahaina. I’m sure we’ll also visit KMart and WalMart near the airport for souvenirs.
There Citicard American Airlines credit card comes with a nice benefit. Every quarter, Citicard puts out a list of destinations you can travel to using only 17,500 miles for a round-trip flight. To get one of these 17,500 mile trips, you need to:
- Have a Citicard American Airlines credit card in the same name as the frequent flyer account you are redeeming miles from
- A MileSAAver award(s) must be available for the route you want to take
Here is a link to the destinations for this quarter by credit card. Here’s a the full list if you don’t want to click on each region individually.
First quarter awards are valid for round trip travel originating in the 48 contiguous United States. Booking is valid December, 2011 – March 31, 2012 for travel from January 1, 2012 through March 31, 2012. All travel must be completed by March 31, 2012. To claim your award, or for more information, call American Airlines AAdvantage® Reservations at 1-800-882-8880.
Dairy Queen is having Customer Appreciation days. For most locations, the entire menu will be half off either on 1/25 or 1/28. To check if your location is participating and what is on sale, go to this site.
Today’s a little side track from the travel hacking. A couple of days ago Adam from Frugal Dad sent me an email about a post that he wrote. It was about airline bankruptcy. In the email he said I was welcome to share it on my site so I’m including it below so you can see what his posts are like. But I really wanted to talk about his site in general. It’s a site that talks about finances for those frugal minded people, like us. His posts are normally made up of incredible graphics that help illustrate his point. Check out his site, it’s quite cool. I like it so much that I added it to my Google Reader subscription list. I can’t even imagine how long it must take him to create one of his posts.